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ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues believe they’ve brought momentum back to Missouri, in addition to a pair of pivotal playoff victories. Now they’re hoping to keep the good times rolling in their own rink, knowing the Winnipeg Jets are likely to be a desperate bunch.
“They’ve beat us in our building before, so we’re expecting the same type of energy game in St. Louis. We expect an even harder game. They’re not gonna back off just because they’re down 2-0,” defenceman Joel Edmundson said following his club’s 4-3 victory at Bell MTS Place Friday that gave them a distinct, early advantage in the best-of-seven series.
“They’re gonna play as hard as they can. We’re expecting a long series. Hopefully not, but we’re gonna do everything we can to get Game 3 under our belts.”
Confident, sure. But you get the sense the Blues are being careful not to get cocky, believing they’ve yet to see the best from their opponent as they get ready for Game 3 tonight (6:30 p.m. CT).
“It’s good for us. Coming into this barn, it’s a hard barn to play. But to take two is a really good sign for this team. But that doesn’t mean anything. We gotta focus on Game 3 right now. We know they’re gonna come hard. We gotta continue what we’re doing,” said forward Pat Maroon, who has certainly put his stamp on the series so far by setting up the winning goal in Game 1, then scoring the second-period equalizer in Game 2.
Maroon is a St. Louis native who signed with his hometown club last summer and is now anticipating his playoff debut at Enterprise Center with the Blues.
“It’s gonna be exciting. Obviously, I can’t wait to hear all the St. Louis Blues fans that I heard growing up. So I’m excited. It’ll be fun to get my first one under the belt,” Maroon said.
The Jets won both meetings with the Blues on the road during the regular season, including Patrik Laine’s historic five-goal game in November. But that was a very different team then.
“It’s really exciting. Obviously, it’s exciting when you can get two wins in their barn, but just the way how close our team is together, how excited on little plays we get on the bench, just as a team, we’re so connected. It’s really fun to be a part of,” rookie forward Robert Thomas said.
“Our fans, probably the last 10 home games have been awesome for us. I’m sure it’ll be ramped up a lot and I’m really excited.”
One area of improvement the Blues are focused on is the power play. They are 0-for-7 so far in the series, while Winnipeg scored twice with the man-advantage in Game 2.
“We’ve had some good opportunities. We have to maybe simplify a bit, maybe shoot pucks more. They’re things that can dramatically affect the outcome and it’s something we’re obviously going to take time, review it and get that sorted out,” said centre Ryan O’ Reilly, who scored the Game 2 winner early in the third period Friday night.
However, the Blues have outscored the Jets 3-0 in the third period of both games, showing the ability to weather any storms that come their way and remain patient, jumping on their opportunities.
“Just not letting them take control fully of the game when we do get kind of caught back on our heels, I think we find a way to have a little response, whether it’s bumping our physical play or a couple shifts of possession shifts down low,” O’ Reilly said.
“We do a good job of kind of rallying and coming together as a team and getting through together, and you have to do it against this team because they’re obviously so skilled and they’re good. We have to do those things.”
And then there’s the play of Jordan Binnington, the rookie netminder who has outplayed his counterpart, Connor Hellebuyck, so far.
“Our motto in here is not get too low, not get too high. So it doesn’t matter if we’re down a goal or up a goal, we’re even-keel and we’re just going out there, we’re sticking to our system. And I think we’ve been doing that for 60 minutes both games,” said Edmundson, the Brandon native who had family members in the crowd for both victories in Winnipeg.
“It’s kinda frustrating them. There’s some chirping going on between the benches, and I think it’s getting underneath their skin a bit. You can definitely see it on their faces. It’s fun to watch. I’m not the one to chirp out there, but we got a couple guys that are good at it. We’re just trying to play smart hockey.”
St. Louis didn’t skate on Saturday, staying overnight in Winnipeg and then flying home mid-morning.
“I think it goes back months where we talked about one-game-at-a-time type hockey and being even-keeled… that’s how you’ve got to do it. It’s a tough league, like this is a real good hockey team that we beat twice here, a really good hockey team, and they’re going to give us their best game in Game 3 at home,” coach Craig Berube said.
“There’s no reason to get too high, you’ve got to stay ready and we’ve got to play even better than we played.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.