It’s finally April, which means that playoff hockey is almost upon us. The Colorado Avalanche are currently in the second Western Conference wild card spot, behind the Dallas Stars, and ahead of the Arizona Coyotes — who they beat 3-2 on Friday night — and Minnesota Wild.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog returned to the lineup for the first time in nine games and he contributed an assist on Nathan MacKinnon’s goal in the second period on Friday.
In the mess that is playoff berths, the Avs win helped the St. Louis Blues and Las Vegas Golden Knights clinch their spots. The Blues have secured the third spot in the Central Division. They have less to play for tonight, but the Avs have more to lose as the Coyotes and Wild are out to catch them.
Nathan MacKinnon in the shootout: #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/yyzDxRxXYu— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 30, 2019
Landeskog’s return to the lineup is a huge advantage for the Avs at this point in the season. His 70 points rank third on the team, behind MacKinnon (90) and Mikko Rantanen (87). He is second in goals with 33, only trailing MacKinnon’s 39.
The Avs have lost both games to the Blues 4-3 in OT and 3-0, but desperately need this win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
One of the Avs strengths right now is their power play, and they will need to bring it with them to St. Louis. They had two power play goals on Friday, and did not allow the Coyotes to score during the penalty kill. The Avs have one of the better power plays in the league right now, especially compared to the Blues, and they will need to use it to their advantage.
We're 11-0 when scoring two or more goals on the power play.#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/Nhdr63KnBw— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 30, 2019
The Avs are also starting games better, and jumping out to early leads. They seem to play better when they are defending a lead, and not playing from behind. With so much riding on these last four games, they cannot afford the stress of playing catch up for 50 minutes.
This is the eighth straight game when the #Avs have scored first.— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) March 30, 2019
Prior to that, they only won EIGHT GAMES ALL YEAR when they fell behind by a goal.
Again. Weaknesses are now strengths with this team. pic.twitter.com/B54UzNn1o6
Alexander Kerfoot - Nathan MacKinnon - J.T. Compher
Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Tyson Jost - Matt Calvert
Gabriel Bourque - Derick Brassard - Sven Andrighetto
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Patrik Nemeth
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are coming off an OT victory against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. In the last two months, they have jumped from being one of the worst teams in the league, to a team with a playoff berth. They have certainly figured things out, but are likely still playing to prove themselves and perfect their game before the playoffs.
They have 21 wins at home and 21 wins on the road, so I don’t expect that to make much of a difference, but the fact that they have beaten the Avs at home and on the road will likely give them some confidence heading into this April match up.
Brayden Schenn - Ryan O’Reilly - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Oskar Sundqvist - David Perron
Pat Maroon - Tyler Bozak - Robert Thomas
Zach Sanford - Ivan Barbashev - Alexander Steen
Vince Dunn - Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester - Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo
Philipp Grubauer is about as hot as it gets right now, which is what we really need. He has not lost a game since March 11 against the Carolina Hurricanes. While he was in goal for the Dec. 14 loss to the Blues, that was a long time ago and he has improved greatly. With two full days off between games, Grubauer should be well rested and ready to go.
Jake Allen was in goal for both of the Blues victories against the Avs this season. He also earned the win on Saturday night. With a day off yesterday, he should be good to go. He is 19-17 with a .905 SV% this season.