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Jets will play Blues in Western Conference First Round

Winnipeg has home-ice advantage; Central rivals have never met in playoffs

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

The Winnipeg Jets will play the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Winnipeg (47-30-5) finished second in the Central Division, tying third-place St. Louis (45-28-9) with 99 points, but will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series because the Jets had more regulation/overtime wins (45-42).

"But as a whole we're happy with where we came from and how we were able to find our game, and the biggest part was chemistry and fine tuning our group mojo and where we wanted to be," Blues forward Alexander Steen said.

The Jets went 3-1-0 against the Blues this season, including a 5-1 win in the regular-season opener Oct. 4. Patrik Laine scored five goals in an 8-4 win on Nov. 24 and had seven points (six goals, one assist) in the four games. Mark Scheifele (two goals, five assists) and Kyle Connor (one goal, six assists) each had seven points. Connor Hellebuyck was 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in three games. Laurent Brossoit won his only start, allowing four goals on 27 shots on Nov. 24.

"[The Blues] are playing really well," Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said. "Since the last time we saw them, outside of [the] Tampa Bay [Lightning], they have the best record in the NHL. At this time of the year, regardless of who you're playing, it's going to be tough."

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David Perron and Ryan O'Reilly each had five points (two goals, three assists), and Vince Dunn and Colton Parayko each had two goals against Winnipeg. Jake Allen was 1-1-1 with a 3.49 GAA and .878 save percentage in four games but made 26 saves in a 1-0 shutout on Dec. 7.

Wheeler led the Jets with 91 points (20 goals, 71 assists) this season. Scheifele had 84 points (38 goals, 46 assists) and was one of three Jets with at least 30 goals (Kyle Connor, 34; Laine, 30). Hellebuyck, who was the runner-up in the voting for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie last season, was 34-23-3 with a 2.91 GAA, .913 save percentage and three shutouts. Brossoit was 13-6-2 with a 2.52 GAA, .925 save percentage and one shutout.

O'Reilly led the Blues with 77 points (28 goals, 49 assists). Vladimir Tarasenko scored 33 goals; he and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals are the only active players to score at least 30 goals in each of the past five seasons. Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who did not play against the Jets, was 24-5-1 with a 1.89 GAA, .927 save percentage and five shutouts. Allen was 19-17-8 with a 2.83 GAA, .905 save percentage and three shutouts.

"It's been a good second half so hopefully we can keep building off that and prepare for the playoffs," Binnington said. "I'm very humbled and it's been a lot of fun being part of this team and this League is incredible. It's been a great experience for me so far and I'm excited for what's to come."

Winnipeg and St. Louis have never met in the playoffs.

The Jets, who qualified for a second straight season, lost the Western Conference Final to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games last season.

The Blues qualified for six straight seasons from 2011-17 before being eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of last season. St. Louis lost to the Nashville Predators in six games in the second round in 2017.

"Things haven't come easily for us recently," Wheeler said. "But we've got a good feeling in our room, a lot of excitement about what should be a great series."

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