Going into this game against the St. Louis Blue expectations were low in Avalanche country after the team announced that Nathan MacKinnon (COVID), Devon Toews (lower body), Valeri Nichushkin (upper body), Gabriel Landeskog (suspension), and Jack Johnson (COVID) would all be missing the team second game of the season. The team had a tough time scoring goals but was able to make a solid comeback reminiscent of the 2013-14 Avalanche, but came short due to a controversial call. However the big story of the night was the ceremony honoring Pierre Lacroix and the raising of Lacroix’s banner to the rafters of Ball Arena. The ceremony featured Avalanche legends Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, and Ray Bourque who helped raise Lacroix’s architect banner.
It took only a little more than a minute for St. Louis to get revenge on Nazem Kadri for his high hit on Justin Faulk in Game 2 of the teams first round series last season. A few seconds after Kadri stepped on the ice for his first shift Brayden Schenn gave him a slash on the pads as a signal to Kadri that he wanted to throw down and Kadri answered the bell. The fight was very hum ho, both contestants landed shots and then fell to the ground after about twenty seconds.
It took less than five minutes for St. Louis to strike. After dominating possession for the first four and a half minutes Tyler Bozak won a puck battle and found Jordan Kyrou who gave the puck to a wide open Justin Faulk in the high slot. Faulk got the puck and buried it on a shot that was very similar to Connor Murphy’s goal for Chicago in the season opener.
The Avalanche got their first real opportunity of the game after Logan O’Connor drew an interference penalty from Robert Bortuzzo. However the Avalanche had a pretty lackluster power play and failed to record a single shot on net.
After the power play the Avalanche started to find their groove and begin getting pressure on the Blues. The team did a good job cycling the puck and maintaining possession during the last half of the period but couldn’t get shots through the pile of St. Louis players in the slot, which led to Colorado only getting five shots during the first twenty minutes of action.
Towards the end of the period the poor got poorer when Stefan Matteau took an awkward tumble between the two benches and slowly walked to locker room after he laid on the ice in pain. This led to the Avalanche being stuck with ten forwards for the reminder of the game.
The second period started much better for the Avalanche. The team got a lot of good opportunities from the defensemen hopping into the play and taking advantage of the time and space given to them by the forwards. The best opportunity came from Erik Johnson who beat Jordan Binnington on his low blocker side with a shot from the box side curcle but got iron. Johnson thought the puck went in and wasn’t ready to pounce on the rebound that popped back out so the Avs remained behind.
After eight and half minutes of controlling play by the Avalanche the Blues got their second goal of the game, this time from Brayden Schenn. The Blues got a quick rush opportunity that seemed to be halted after Schenn bobbled a pass from Jordan Kyrou at the blue line, which bounced between Schenn and Avalanche defender Kurtis MacDermid. MacDermid tried to get possession of the puck rather than taking out Schenn, the play he was acquired to make, and Schenn walked around MacDermid and buried a shot, low blocker again, from the hash marks.
It didn’t take too long for the Blues to pot another one, again on the rush. David Perron, who was questionable to play today, potted this one after carrying the puck past the benches and ripping a shot high blocker side on Darcy Kuemper from the top of the circle.
Just three minutes after the Blues’ third goal the Avalanche got their own quality opportunity off of a rush with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky. Samuel Girard stepped out from behind the Avalanche net and dished a pass to Kadri, who was on the bench side red line. Kadri then took the puck into the St. Louis zone and dished a beautiful cross ice pass through a swarm of bodies to Burakovsky, who hammered home a one timer from his knee.
This goal served as Blues’ coach Craig Berube’s sign to get his team to start shutting down the neutral zone and getting pucks deep. For the rest of the period neither team could get any chances and the Blues took a 3-1 lead into the third period where they continued to shut down any rush opportunities for the Avalanche.
After the most even start to a period in the game the Avalanche got a chance to start a comeback when Ivan Barbashev was called for cross checking Mikko Rantanen against the boards away from the play. This power play was much better than the first, but had the same result thanks to Jordan Binnington robbing a patented Mikko Rantanen one timer.
Binnington would keep up his stellar play in net when he got a pad on a Jayson Megna shot that was a little less than three feet from the goalmouth.
A few minutes later Avalanche rookie Sampo Ranta got the puck at the corner of the point on the penalty box side of the ice and tried to dish a backhand saucer pass to Sam Girard that was knocked out of the air and into the neutral zone. Girard had a step on the Blues player that was racing to get the puck but due to a miscommunication between Girard and Ranta, Ranta attempted to gain body position on the Blues player but knocked them down, getting an interference call against him.
The Blues would score on this power play when David Perron found himself all alone at the box side circle while all four Avalanche killers were caught below the face off dots and scored a goal that was a copy and paste of his first of the night.
Andre Burakovsky would then take another penalty with six minutes left in the game, which seemed to be the definitive end of Colorado’s chances of victory in the game, however Logan O’Connor, doing his best Arya Stark impression, said no to the god of death by drawing a penalty on a shorthanded breakaway. This would give the Avalanche a four on four, which immediately turned into a five on four when Jared Bednar pulled Darcy Kuemper to give the Avalanche a five on four.
Barely thirty seconds later Tyson Jost would tip home a JT Compher shot from the high slot for his first goal of the year, and more importantly to get Colorado back in the game.
Both teams got back to even strength and Colorado finally got enough of a cycle going in St. Louis’ zone that Jared Bednar felt comfortable pulling Darcy Kuemper yet again, this time giving Colorado a six on five. Colorado would capitalize again, getting them within one goal of St. Louis. This time the goal came from JT Compher who blocked a Nazem Kadri shot with his calve and tapped the puck into a wide open net.
It didn’t take long for the Avalanche to get set up in the Blues zone and pull Kuemper again. After about a minute of six on five play a Mikko Rantanen shot banked behind the Blues net to JT Compher who got robbed by Jordan Binnington but Tyson Jost was able to jump on the rebound and tie the game, that was until the officials went to a review and determined that the puck was kicked in by Jost.
Colorado clearly had the energy sucked out of the by this call and couldn’t get much of anything set up again. This led to a turnover off of a bad bounce at the St. Louis blue line that was picked up by Ryan O’Reilly and shot into the empty net to seal the game for the Blues.
This game was kept close by performances from Colorado’s best players, specifically Nazem Kadri and Cale Makar. Kadri finished the night with two assists and Makar with one, and they both contributed in every facet of the game. Kadri helped anchor the first line without Nathan MacKinnon and never really made any big mistakes in the game, more than that he played a role as the distributor for the first line which was much different than the shoot first game he plays on a healthy Colorado team. Makar didn’t have as much of a flashy night as the team might have needed but he played well defensively and showed some flashes of the top end point presence we weren’t able to see in the preseason and season opener.
There were a few depth guys who also played well tonight in JT Compher, Logan O’ Connor, and Ryan Murray. Compher finally got to bury one after getting countless chances this game and the Chicago game, and was close to getting another one later in the game before the Jost goal that was disallowed. Compher had to play a much bigger role than he’s used to as Colorado’s second line center, but came out of the game with a goal and an assist. O’ Connor also had a solid game in an elevated role and drew two penalties for Colorado doing what he does best, skating fast and forechecking. He also had to carry much of the offense for the third line, which is something he’s not accustomed to. Ryan Murray was the most consistent defender on the team as far as defensive performance, especially on the penalty kill. There’s not much to say about Murray’s game tonight other than the fact that he was rock solid defensively, which is what he’s here to do.
As far as those who you want more from there’s a small number, because most players were in over their heads tonight. I thought the only truly poor performances came from Kurtis MacDermid and Samuel Girard. Both of which had their moments of positivity and negativity. MacDermid was the sole reason that St. Louis scored their second goal of the game, which stunted Colorado’s momentum they had gained in the first half of the period. All MacDermid had to do to negate Schenn’s goal was use his gigantic body to separate Schenn from any hope of getting the puck, or just slap the puck towards the boards and let the back checking forward pick up the puck and get it out. Despite this being a terrible play for MacDermid he played a pretty solid game otherwise, he made easy plays with the puck and didn’t get burned, although more physicality would be nice to see out of him. Girard had a very solid game in the offensive zone but he made some very questionable decisions in the defensive and neutral zone. The biggest examples of these were when Girard had coverage back on St. Louis’ third goal but didn’t step up on Perron, giving him all the time to shoot and when St. Louis clogged up the neutral zone and Girard insisted on forcing passes rather than using his elite skating ability to get the puck in the Blues zone.
Darcy Kuemper and Mikko Rantanen were two guys that you can’t complain about, but you need more out of them to win games where you’re missing so many pieces, and key pieces at that. It’s hard to blame Kuemper for any of the Blues goals, but they wanted him over Philip Grubauer because he would make the tough saves. Rantanen played really well, the only thing you can want him to do more was score a goal, which he almost did but Jordan Binnington shut it down.
There’s very little negatives to take out of this game if you’re an Avalanche fan. The team was without three, debatably four, of their ten best players and were too strapped to cash to pull up the best players they could to fill in the empty roster spots. The ending was unfortunate due to the controversial call on what would have been the tying goal, but taking a team with legitimate playoff aspirations down to the wire with half of an AHL squad is a definite positive.