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Millard's Five Storylines: Game 2

Special teams and speedy play a key for Jets in Game 2

by Daren Millard @darenmillard /

1. The curtain raiser between the Jets and Blues was a relatively tame one for the officials. On only four occasions did the penalty box door open, with Winnipeg, limited to one power play. The limited man-advantage opportunities speak to how little extended pressure the clubs were able to produce. 

Winnipeg has preached a north-south game, if the Jets can get through the middle of the ice easier, the speed becomes more of a factor and forces the Blues to react.   Winnipeg's power play finished the regular season ranked fifth in the NHL, it needs more than one opportunity a night to have an impact in the series. Drawing penalties is a skill but also a by-product of causing chaos for the other team, something the Jets hope to increase in the second meeting of the series.

2. Pay attention to how much the top lines go head-to-head in Game Two. The units spent a majority of the opener under that scenario and basically cancelled each other out.  Blues centre Ryan O'Reilly is elite in the face-off dot and the analytics say Mark Scheifele and company will be chasing off a majority of the draws. Winnipeg is by no means uncomfortable with the match-up but I wouldn't be surprised if the number one trio lines up against someone else a few times.   One note, Scheifele did a really nice job in the opener, holding O'Reilly to a 52% success rate on Wednesday.

3. There have been memorable moments since Dustin Byfuglien returned to the lineup two weeks ago, but Game One marked the defenceman's best overall performance. Buff led the rush that resulted in the Jets goal, his ability to skate with the puck was one of the more effective methods to navigate the games clogged neutral zone.  A post and another sharp angle shot added to the offensive zone contributions which complemented a handful of solid hits and sweeping away a puck that got behind Connor Hellebuyck. Byfuglien's physical game is an investment for Game Four and beyond, his ability to establish puck possession in the offensive zone is a big advantage for Game Two.

4. The St. Louis  Blues are no strangers to seeing Patrik Laine score. Apparently the frequency of these celebrations, more specifically the wingers five-goal game in St.Louis in November, appears to be a sore spot. The Blues went out of their way to harass Laine the next time the clubs met, and Game One was a continuation. Laine was the focus of several in-game gatherings along with appearing to be the target of Blues coach Craig Berube who was spotted barking at players as he left the ice after the game.  Laine isn't what I would call a natural villain, but he appeared to enjoy the attention sent his way, even more so following his goal.  That smirk combined with a goal is a great indicator of a buoyed Laine, which usually results in a productive stretch.

5. Arguably, Nikolaj Ehlers was the Jets best player in the opening period of Game One. Still waiting for his elusive first playoff goal, Ehlers was denied by a sharp Jordan Binnington glove in the early minutes, testing the Blues rookie three times in the first, going onto record a team-high four shots in the contest. Ehlers' centre Kevin Hayes enjoyed one of the loudest cheers Wednesday night. The trade deadline acquisition drew the praise of the Bell MTS Place crowd after a smart play on the penalty kill that whittled away significant time on the Blues man-advantage. He admitted to JetsTV's Ground Control playoff podcast that he had never played in front of an audience like in  Game One. Hayes' parents are in town and also marvelled at the playoff environment. The line, that also includes Mathieu Perreault, was on for the Blues' winning goal. Considering Ehlers was the only member to record a shot on goal, that third unit will be looking for more of a presence 5-on-5 in Game Two.

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