Round 2 Preview: Blues vs. Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche Vs. St. Louis Blues

Avalanche: 56-19-7, 119 points; defeated Nashville Predators 4-0 in first round

Blues: 49-22-11, 109 points; defeated Minnesota Wild 4-2 in first round

Season series: COL 2-1-0; STL 1-2-0

Game 1: Tuesday (8:30 pm CT; TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)

ROUND 2 SCHEDULE

The Colorado Avalanche are desperate to get past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This time, it’s the St. Louis Blues who are standing in their way.

The Avalanche haven’t been to a conference final since 2002, when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games. They have lost in the second round each of the past three seasons.

The Blues are in the second round for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2019.

Colorado won the Central Division with 119 points, 10 more than St. Louis, which finished third. But the Blues went 14-4-2 in their final 20 regular-season games and eliminated the Minnesota Wild in six games in the first round.

“They’re deep; they’re extremely deep,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “Numbers show it; 109 points, [nine] 20-goal guys, top special teams in the League. All of it. Everything makes it a tough test. “

But Colorado was the second-best team in the regular season, finishing three points behind the Florida Panthers. The Avalanche outscored the Nashville Predators 21-9 in a four-game sweep.

“They’re a great team, Colorado, we all know that,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “They’ve got a lot of high-end players. You’re going to have to do a lot of things right and you’re going to have to be real disciplined and stay out of the penalty box against them.”

That is the game plan the Blues followed against the Wild, so they know how to do it. Also, they said they’re aware of how dangerous the Avalanche can be after being swept last season in the first round by Colorado, when they were outscored 20-7.

“I think we’re a better team than last year for sure,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s going to be a very tough challenge for us. They are one of, if not, the best teams in the League this year.” It’s going to be a fun and tough challenge again for us. “

Colorado defenseman Cale Makar leads the Avalanche with 10 points (three goals, seven assists), the fourth-highest total in the playoffs. Gabriel Landeskog has six points (three goals, three assists), Nathan MacKinnon has scored five goals and Mikko Rantanen has five assists.

Berube said those players provide a unique challenge because they are big and heavy forwards who can be a handful for the defense.

Goalie Darcy Kuemper was 2-0, allowing four goals on 61 shots before he sustained an eye injury in Game 3. He is expected to be ready for the start of the second round.

St. Louis forwards David PerronO’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko each scored five goals in the first round.

Goalie Jordan Binnington replaced Ville Husso for Game 4 against Minnesota and won three straight games, allowing five goals on 88 shots.

Binnington started all three regular-season games against the Avalanche, going 1-2-0 with a 3.78 GAA and .897 save percentage.

“They’ve been getting good goaltending from both those guys, and if one guy’s struggled, the other guy’s gone in and given them exactly what they needed over the course of the whole season and playoffs so far; using both guys in the first round , “Bednar said. “I can’t pinpoint anything, one singular thing. Just one guy gets hot, they ride him. If he cools off, they go to the next guy.”

Game breakers

Avalanche: MacKinnon has 75 points (33 goals, 42 assists) in 54 NHL playoff games. His 1.39 points per game average is tops among active players and third all-time behind Wayne Gretzky (1.84) and Mario Lemieux (1.61) among those to play at least 35 postseason games.

Blues: Tarasenko showed his ability to change the complexion of a game, and a series, with his Game 5 performance in a 5-2 win against the Wild. The series was tied 2-2 and the game was 2-2 entering the third period before the forward scored a natural hat trick. He has 57 points (40 goals, 17 assists) in 84 playoff games.

Goaltending

Avalanche: Kuemper was off to a fast start this postseason and is expected to return after he had a .934 save percentage before an errant stick struck his eye in Game 3 and forced him to miss the remainder of the first-round series. Pavel Francouz had a .902 save percentage against the Predators.

Blues: Binnington has reclaimed the starting role he lost to Husso with his strong performance against the Wild. His big-game experience-he won the Stanley Cup in 2019-served him well in the first round. Binnington was 0-4 with an .899 save percentage against the Avalanche in the playoffs last season. Husso had a shutout in his playoff debut against the Wild but allowed nine goals in his next two starts.

Numbers to know

Avalanche: 5.25 goals per game in the playoffs, the best among the 16 teams that qualified. This after averaging 3.76 goals per game in the regular season, fourth best in the NHL.

Blues: Eight power-play goals, the most in the first round. St. Louis scored at least one power-play goal in each of the six games against Minnesota. Colorado killed 76.9 of the power-play opportunities it faced in the first round, which ranked 11th.

X-factors

Avalanche: Devon Toews gets lost in the hype surrounding Makar, but the defenseman is a force as well. He averaged 24:44 of ice time per game in the first round and had five points (three goals, two assists). His 15 shots tied for fourth on the team. He also sees time on the power play and the penalty kill.

Blues: Scott Perunovich did not play until Game 4, pressed into action because of a rash of injuries on defense. He had not played since Jan. 15 because of a wrist injury but stepped right in and had three assists in three games, including two on the power play.

They said it

“They are a different team this year and we are a different team this year. So, you can’t look into [the sweep] last year too much because that is in the past. We are focused on the present and playing the St. Louis team this year and they are a potent, highly potent offensive team that we have to be ready for. ” – Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews

“They’ve got a lot of good players, we all know that. High-end players with a very good D corps with Makar leading the way. You’ve got to check well; it’s important that you get to try to neutralize their speed as much as possible, and individuals have to do a good job on certain players for sure. And, as a team concept, you’ve got to go in there and you’ve got to, as much as possible, be on the right side of things.I think when you look at how they score goals, and the way they play, there are a lot of odd-man rushes, there are a lot of breakdowns and, and things like that. They pick you apart. And if you’re not above people, and you don’t have numbers, that’s what happens. ” – Blues coach Craig Berube

Will win if

Avalanche: They stay out of penalty trouble. The Blues want to turn this series into a special teams battle. Colorado can’t let that happen.

Blues: Binnington stays confident. It’s going to require a special performance to neutralize the high-flying Avalanche offense. Binnington is one of the goalies who can do it, but only if he maintains the confidence he displayed in winning the final three games in the first round.

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