Blues aim to improve playoff positioning in matchup against Jets
ST. LOUIS — Having already secured a playoff spot has not altered the motivation for the St. Louis Blues for the final week of the regular season.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot,” St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen said. “We know we’re in the playoffs, but we still want to try to keep working. More or less for us it’s just playing well going in the playoffs, doing the right things.”
That is certainly what the Blues have been doing lately as they begin a stretch that will see them play four games in the final six days of the regular season starting with Tuesday’s home game against the Winnipeg Jets.
A 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday solidified the Blues’ hold on third place in the Central Division. They are two points ahead of the Predators with a game in hand. The win improved the Blues’ record to 12-1-2 in their last 15 games.
“We’re still pushing ourselves to play a better game, we do that every single game,” St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Especially now that we’ve clinched, it’s more about us finding our game and playing the way we want to play here moving forward.
“It’s more about us playing our game and building what we want to build here at the right time of the year. We’ve done that up to this point and these next four games are going to be important to make sure we really crunch down the way we want to play.”
One of the biggest reasons for the Blues’ recent success has been the play of Allen, who has recovered from a mid-season slump. Since March 5, he has gone 9-1-2 in 12 starts. The only regulation loss was a 2-1 game at Anaheim.
“He’s been outstanding,” Pietrangelo said. “Every single night he’s giving us a chance to win — him and Hutts (backup Carter Hutton) and that’s what you really want from the goalie. Making every single save that he needs to make, it’s pretty impressive the way he’s been able to bounce back and playing a lot too, which is a good sign that he’s able to take those big minutes.”
The Jets are in a different spot than the Blues entering the final week of the season as they have been eliminated from the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years. That will allow them to look at some of their young players in their remaining games.
The team recalled its top two prospects, Jack Roslovic and Kyle Connor, from the minor leagues on Monday and coach Paul Maurice said the two 20-year-old forwards will be in the lineup for some of the remaining three games.
Playing games without a playoff spot at stake is not something Bryan Little enjoys even though he knows the Jets have had a good run of late, having gone 7-2 in their last nine games, including a current four-game winning streak.
“You are playing against teams that are fighting for their playoff lives and they are a bit tense,” Little told the Winnipeg Sun. “You can’t put your finger on it. Obviously, you would have liked to have won these four games when it mattered and been in a better position now.
“But I’d rather be winning and playing well now than just rolling over and throwing in the towel. There’s really something to be proud of, the way we are handling it.”