In what is the penultimate game before the NHL ceases operation for nearly a dozen days for the annual All-Star break, the Colorado Avalanche will look to build on a dominant performance in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday evening by welcoming the defending Cup champs St. Louis Blues.
Fun Fact: this is the 100th meeting between these two teams. The Avs hold the 48-38-13 advantage.
The Avs finally looked like the Avs of old on Thursday, showing off their blazing team speed and shove-it-down-their-throat offense en route to handily dismantling a struggling San Jose Sharks team. Before you get too excited, remember the Sharks are in 26th place in the league and Colorado had no business losing to a team like that. I will hold my applause until after this afternoon’s result.
However, what that win did do for the Avalanche was give them some much needed confidence across the board — Philipp Grubauer earned a much-needed shutout, and special teams, particularly the penalty kill, thwarted each of San Jose’s efforts and even cashed in on a short-handed goal; and depth scoring made a nice cameo. The Avs won a game without the name “Nathan MacKinnon” showing up on the scoresheet, with Valeri Nichushkin, Cale Makar, Ryan Graves and Matt Calvert stepping up in MacK’s stead.
The real challenge presents itself today when the Avs take on the Central Division-leading Blues, which are 10 points ahead of the second-placed Avalanche.
Gabe Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Valeri Nichushkin - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky
Matt Calvert - P-E Bellemare - J.T. Compher
Vlad Kamenev - Tyson Jost - Matt Nieto
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Sam Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov
St. Louis Blues
The All-Star Game-hosting Blues come into Denver sporting a 4-0-1 record in their last five and will present a tough challenge for the opposite-trending Avalanche.
Last time St. Louis marched in to Pepsi Center on Jan. 2, Colorado scored a touchdown on the defending Cup champs. This game, however, expect the Blues to put up more of a fight. One thing to watch in this afternoon’s game on St. Louis’ side of things is their lethal third line. Alex Steen - Rob Thomas - Tyler Bozak have each tallied six points in their last five and has by far been the most productive line for the Blues.
The Avs PK will also be tested in this one. St. Louis has the league’s fourth-best power play this season, cashing in on a fourth of their opportunities (25.4 percent).
Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Oskar Sundqvist
Zach Sanford - Ryan O’Reilly - David Perron
Alex Steen - Rob Thomas - Tyler Bozak
Mackenzie MacEachern - Jacob de la Rose - Ivan Barbashev
Vince Dunn - Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester - Justin Faulk
Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo
Coach Bednar said yesterday that he’s “leaning toward starting Philipp Grubauer,” as he should. Grubauer recorded his first shutout of the season in a 27-save effort on Thursday and deserves to build on that and hopefully regain some much-needed confidence in between the pipes.
For St. Louis, it’ll likely be Jordan Binnington, who is tied for second in the NHL with 22 wins.