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Millard's Five Storylines: Game 6

Perreault-Hayes-Roslovic a strong trio heading into Game 6

by Daren Millard @darenmillard /

1. There's a saying. "It's not how you start but how you finish." That phrase is haunting the Jets right now as the third period has become Winnipeg's achilles heel. In the first five games of the series, the Blues have scored nine goals in the final period of regulation. Compare that to four by the Jets. Using the equation that determines a netminder's goals-against average, Connor Hellebuyck's third-period number is 5.40. However, while it hasn't received nearly as much attention,  Winnipeg has been spectacular over the first two periods of the series. Three times Hellebuyck has been perfect in the games opening forty minutes, surrendering just a single goal one other time. Hellebuyck's goals-against average in the 40 minutes to start, a stingy 1.20. That type of performance would suggest a much better fate than the Jets' occupy.  

2. Whatever Paul Maurice said to Mathieu Perreault got through because the Jets winger produced his best performance of the series in Game 5. Perreault was in the dog house after taking four penalties in his first three games of the set, including a couple of high profile infractions in Game 4. Perreault wreaked havoc in his fourth line ice time in the fifth game, blocking a shot that led to the Kevin Hayes breakaway chance in the second period, a play that followed a slick stick-lift to steal a puck inside the Blues zone that led to Hayes agonizingly close call on the goal line. When Maurice was asked about the goal line scramble 24 hours later, his deadpanned explanation about a busted stick left most of the media (including myself) believing he was deflecting with his brilliant sense of humour. After looking back at the play, Maurice was dead serious. 

"I'm pretty sure he (Hayes) took a slash that broke his stick." Explained Maurice, "So when he went down, it (the stick blade) bent up, came off the ice on his first stab forward, so he had to come back and try to shovel it, and on the way back to shovel it, he pulled it out."  

Of course, by breaking the stick of Hayes, Blues defenceman Colton Paryako should have received a slashing minor. In defence of the officials, nobody watching live, on the ice or elsewhere caught it, and Hayes didn't complain at the time. If Hayes' stick had snapped in half, like what seems to happen in much less combative situations, it would have have been obvious. Despite not getting the bounces on the two great second period chances, Hayes is proving to be productive in the series. Since Maurice shuffled in lines for Game 3, Hayes has scored two goals in scaled-back ice time as the fourth line centre. Outside of the Perreault penalties, the Hayes unit that includes Jack Roslovic has carried its weight and a little more.

3. As a big, big, body that can skate effortlessly, Dustin Byfuglien is one of the NHL's most unique defencemen. Byfuglien won a race to the puck in the Game 4 overtime period, an effort that started the game-winning rush. Count goal scoring as another area of Byfuglien's' game that separates him from his peers. The veteran blueliner is the only defenceman in the series to score. Byfuglien banked a puck off the mask of Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington in Winnipeg's  Game 3 victory, a goal, when combined with Byfuglien's five assists, makes him the series leader in point production. Two of the assists have come on the power play, but Byfuglien has been close on a couple of others chances, ripping shots just wide of the net, efforts that appeared to be attempted at deflections or banking the puck off the end boards.

4. When asked about the status of Nikolaj Ehlers, Jets head coach Paul Maurice may have offered a subliminal heads up to the Twitter-verse. Ehlers took a shot off the foot late in Game 5, leaving Maurice to list the forward as probable, adding, "We probably won't put him out for the morning, but he feels good." Conducting a roll-call is a media pastime at Stanley Cup playoff morning skates, sending any missing names straight into Twitters' trending column. Ehlers and Patrik Laine share the Jets team lead for shots on goal with sixteen. Ehlers, fourth in Jets regular season goal scoring, continues to search for his first career playoff marker.

5. From the file, you can't win for trying, Paul Maurice noted the line matching that he and his Blues counterpart Craig Berube have attempted has not worked out as planned.  

"The matchup is an interesting one." said Maurice before the club departed for St. Louis, 

"The matchup you wanted, we would have dominated the "A" matchup (in Game 5) like Lowry scores and gives up nothing. When it switched in the two games there, and they get that line (O'Reilly) out against Scheif, it's been good for us. It's underpinnings, the other lines that have done most of the damage." 

O'Reilly did score his first goal of the series in Game Five, but that was on the power play, a part of the game that has produced a Blues goal in each of the last three games.  Winnipeg had been perfect out of the gate in Games 1&2, killing off all seven shorthanded situations. The Jets power play wasn't able to convert on a four-minute man advantage in the second period Friday night. I asked Maurice if it was a matter of urgency?  He said,  "I wouldn't use that word, it was relaxed a little bit I thought we looked tight on it. We know there's a potential game killer maybe in that situation. I thought we were a little slow with it."  Before the assembled media could ask, the coach was quick to dismiss any concerns. "All year we've been really good at being able to fix that pretty quick."

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