NHL Hockey

Blues look for 3-0 series lead vs. Jets

St. Louis Blues celebrate a 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Friday, April 12, 2019, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

The St. Louis Blues are up 2-0 in their opening-round playoff series against the Winnipeg Jets, with a chance to take a stranglehold in the best-of-seven set when it resumes Sunday in Missouri.

A key difference has been in net.

Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck may not be directly facing St. Louis rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, but there's no doubt who was better in the first two games.

While Binnington has held the fort in both outings, Hellebuyck has surrendered ill-timed and dubious goals, including the winner by Ryan O'Reilly in Friday's 4-3 clash in Winnipeg.

Hellebuyck didn't exactly like being asked about whether he felt he should have made the save on any or all of the three wrist shots that beat him.

"I really don't like that question," said Hellebuyck, who has a .897 save percentage in two games. "I'm going to remain positive here. It's only 2-0. There's a lot of hockey left to be played. We've got to focus on getting four, and so do they. We're going to continue fighting."

He added: "This is a team game. We're going to fight. Nothing's over. Two-oh is not the end of the world. I would like every single goal I ever let in back."

Naturally, the Jets expect a bounce-back effort. They lost the series opener 2-1.

"I think he's gonna be great (Sunday). I truly do," coach Paul Maurice said. "That's his career. If he had an off night, he got a little snarly, and he's been good. I expect him to be at his best."

Meanwhile, Binnington is only the fourth NHL goalie in the past 32 years to win each of his first two playoff road games. He has saved 50 of 54 shots (.926 save percentage) with a 2.00 goals-against average in those two games. Binnington had a 1.89 GAA in 32 regular-season appearances.

As easy as it is to pin Winnipeg's problems on the goaltending, the Jets as a whole need a turnaround. They have been struggling since the start of February, so solving Binnington is only part of the quest right now.

"At this time of year you've got to get results. So, go to St. Louis and take care of business," Blake Wheeler told the Winnipeg Sun. "You've got to win four games to win a series. Never met any team that won two to win a series, so we're all right."

The Blues are bracing for that defiance on the ice, too.

"This is a real good hockey team that we beat twice here -- a really good hockey team -- and they are going to give us their best game, Game 3 at home," Blues interim head coach Craig Berube said. "And there's no reason to get too high. You've got to stay ready and you gotta play even better than we've played."

Berube's point is valid, but it's worth noting 86 percent of teams that win the first two games go on to win a Stanley Cup playoff series.

"To take two is a really good sign for this team, but that doesn't mean anything," Blues forward Pat Maroon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We gotta focus on Game 3 right now. We know they're gonna come hard. We gotta continue what we're doing."

--Field Level Media

Updated April 14, 2019

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