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Round Two Preview: Goaltending could be the difference

How do Colorado and St. Louis compare between the pipes?

NHL: MAY 05 Playoffs Round 1 Game 2 - Predators at Avalanche Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues both started two goaltenders in round one, but for different reasons. The Blues went to Jordan Binnington after Ville Husso lost games two and three. Binnington took the crease and didn’t look back. For the Avalanche, Pavel Francouz had to step in for an injured Darcy Kuemper and sealed the deal with two road victories. Both teams have excellent depth scoring, which makes goaltending the deciding factor in this series. How do these goalie tandems match up in round two?

Colorado Avalanche

Avalanche fans let out a collective gasp when Darcy Kuemper took a stick through the mask in game two of the first round. Fortunately, backup Pavel Francouz answered the call and closed out the series while Kuemper nursed a swollen eye. Kuemper and his eye have recovered, and he will get the start in game one against the Blues on Tuesday night.

Darcy looked excellent in games one and two before being injured with a 1.63 goals against average and .934 SV%. Colorado is already a round into the playoffs and hasn’t had to rely on a stolen game from either keeper, but every Stanley Cup champion gets one or two of those types of victories. The Blues have eight players with twenty or more goals. All four of their lines can put the puck in the net, so Colorado will need stout keeping to get over the second-round hump.

If Frankie makes an appearance in round two, Avalanche fans can find solace in how he performed in games three and four of round one, especially on the road. He came in the cold after Kuemper’s injury and never looked back. Pavel performed when his team needed him and maintained their confidence heading deeper into a cup run. That’s why solid backup goaltending is so essential.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues started round one with Ville Husso in the net, but Jordan Binnington earned the starting role with big wins in games four, five, and six. Binnington’s performances were vital in shifting the tide in round one, and the Blues will look to ride with his hot hand against the Avalanche. The thing about that is Jordan Binnington hasn’t been all that successful against the Avalanche in recent history.

Surprisingly, Jordan Binnington has a pedestrian .893 SV% against Colorado in the last seven meetings. In last year’s playoffs, Binnington went 0-4 against Colorado and gave up three or more goals in each of those losses. Colorado won the regular season series 2-1, and again Binnington allowed three or more in those contests. A bit of bad blood between Colorado and Binnington has been evident in how he has handled being beaten by the Avalanche. If Colorado chases Binnington again, they will go with their backup, Ville Husso, without hesitation.

Husso was solid to end the regular season for the Blues but didn’t look so good against the Wild. He gave up five goals in games two and four in game three, which led to him handing the starting role back to Binnington. Husso started the series with a shutout of the talented Wild team before his struggles began in game two. The twenty-seven-year-old from Finland has only faced the Avalanche twice before, both in last year’s regular season. He was pulled in one of those games and gave up six total goals.

Who has the advantage?

I’ll give the advantage to Colorado, given the recent success of both of their Goaltenders. Frankie didn’t just step in for Colorado and do the bare minimum. He was pretty darn good in round one, especially late in game four. Kuemper is ready to earn himself a contract and carry his team into the third round and beyond. Many pundits saw him as an upgrade over Philipp Grubauer, and it’s time for him to offer that as fact.

There’s just one wild card in the deck of this netminder matchup. If Binnington flips the switch and turns the tide on Colorado’s dominance, he could steal games and the series. He has proven himself on the biggest stage in hockey, and if he can play to that level again this time around, all bets are off.