The St. Louis Blues ended up on top of the Minnesota Wild in six games. They now face a much tougher task with the Colorado Avalanche as the top seed of the Western Conference. Similar to what we did with the Nashville Predators series, let’s go over the Blues by position, starting off with the forwards and these projected lines.
Brayden Schenn—Ryan O’Reilly—David Perron
Pavel Buchnevic—Robert Thomas—Vladimir Tarasenko
Brandon Saad—Ivan Barbashev—Jordan Kyrou
Alexei Toropchenko—Tyler Bozak—Scott Perunovich
The Big Names
The main names that come to mind from that lineup are Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko on the top two lines. Of course, O’Reilly was a former member of the Avs way back when prominently known for his role in the wonderous 2013/14 season. Now as the captain of this Blues team, he looks to lead the way and take revenge for the first-round sweep they suffered last season to this Avs team.
The captain has 21 goals and 37 assists in the regular season. In the first round, he was a force with four goals and four assists in six games. His partner in crime in Tarasenko had 34 goals and 48 assists in the first 82 games of the year, along with five goals and an assist against the Wild.
These two are certainly going to be a problem on the ice on the top two lines. O’Reilly will want to make true on the comments he made last season against this Avs side and will have a good chance to do so. With Tarasenko racking up his stats alongside him, the Avs need to be wary and shut them down early as they did to Filip Forsberg in round one. They will be better offensively than the Preds were.
The Middle Six: Depth is key for the Blues
The top two forwards on the team have plenty of support alongside them this year as well. Pavel Buchnevich’s acquisition from the New York Rangers has paid dividends for them, along with the services of Jordan Kyrou. Buchnevich has been stellar with 30 goals and 46 assists, and Kyrou has 27 goals and 48 assists in the regular season. They will certainly be up to the task against the Avs’ middle six.
There was one big addition to the depth that they added from the Avalanche to “weaken” them: Brandon Saad. He was a solid contributor in his sole year in an Avalanche uniform. Avs fans were certainly disheartened when he was let go and moved on to a division rival. In 78 games played, he’s got 24 goals and 25 assists as a solid third-line winger. A few of those goals have come against his former team this season.
The Fourth Line: Don’t overlook the bottom three
On the fourth line, Tyler Bozak is one to look out for as a possible depth star for the Blues. While only having four goals and nine assists on the year, his veteran status at 36 years old will come in handy. He does have a goal in this playoff season so far and is always willing to work on that fourth line.
Who has the edge?
When you look at the forwards St. Louis brings to the table, it obviously has more to offer than the Predators did. Their depth will certainly play a role in this upcoming series. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Blues win a game or two in this series over the Avs. I don’t believe there will be a repeat sweep in this playoff series as there was last season.
The Avs went 2-1-0 against the Blues this season. They lost their second game of the season at home to St. Louis, but have been on top the rest of the season. It included a 4-3 win on the road just a couple of weeks after the loss at the beginning of the season, and a 4-2 win in the final week of the season.
Even with the negative record, the Blues surprisingly have the edge over the Avs in goals for and special teams. It could be determined that the Blues did pull off an upset over the Wild in the first round. Even with the upset, can the Blues pull off an even bigger upset against an Avalanche team that can’t get past the second round?
The Blues simply don’t have the same fortitude and scoring as the Avs depth does. The grit of the fourth line of the Avs bought at the trade deadline will push the Avs over the fourth line of the Blues. The big guns don’t match up evenly with the Avs’ top six either. Regardless, while closer, the Avs depth should be able to shut down their counterpart in this series while having the top six overpower their top six. The Blues forward will be feeling the blues by the time the series wraps up.