The Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues meet for a playoff matchup tonight at Ball Arena for Game 2 of the second round. It took an overtime goal and some playoff heroics from defenseman Josh Manson, but the Avalanche secured the victory in Game 1. Can Colorado exert their will and take a two-game lead in the series, or will the Blues respond and steal home-ice advantage heading to St. Louis for Game 3?
The Avalanche seemed to get a bit of a slow start in game one lacking some of the little details that only come with live playoff action. They got better and better as Game 1 wore on and performed as well as I expected. If not for some unlucky bounces and pesky posts, the score sheet could have looked more lopsided than it does. If Colorado can continue to play in the St. Louis end, control possession time, and limit defensive zone turnovers, the Blues can’t hang.
St. Louis’ goals in Game 1 came from slight errors and poor puck luck. The focus of Game 2 should be limiting those mistakes and tightening things up in front of Darcy Kuemper. Colorado saw the Blues take a one-goal lead, try to play keep away, and wait for the Avalanche to come to them. That strategy didn’t pan out, as Colorado had plenty of good scoring chances throughout the night. You can’t wait out this Avalanche team. You have to beat them.
Valeri Nichushkin — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog — Nazem Kadri — Artturi Lehkonen
Andre Burakovsky — JT Compher — Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Andrew Cogliano — Nico Sturm — Darren Helm
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Sam Girard — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson
Note: Sam Girard had a post-game x-ray performed, but head coach Jared Bednar implied he was fine on Altitude SR on Wednesday morning.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues may have let a rare opportunity slip in their Game 1 defeat, with Binnington and the posts keeping them within striking distance long enough to force overtime. Had the puck bounced in Colorado’s favor, they could have been down three or four goals in the first period. Instead, they had a chance to steal Game 1 on the road as heavy underdogs. They were unable to capitalize but will get another chance tonight.
St. Louis got a solid performance from their captain Ryan O’Reilly in Game 1, but after that, there was a pretty substantial drop in the showings from others among their forward group. National pundits pointed to the Blues' forward depth as a possible advantage heading into the series, but we are yet to see that show itself.
Brayden Schenn — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron
Pavel Buchnevich — Robert Thomas — Vladimir Tarasenko
Brandon Saad — Ivan Barbashev — Jordan Kyrou
Alexei Toropchenko — Tyler Bozak — Scott Perunovich
Nick Leddy — Colton Parayko
Calle Rosen — Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola — Robert Bortuzzo
Darcy Kuemper will get the start once more for the Avalanche in Game 2. He looked great in Game 1, letting in just two goals, one of which was one-on-one with Ryan O’Reilly in tight, and the other a deflection that turned into a change-up. Not many goalies can stop ROR when he goes forehand backhand in the slot like that, and his teammates got caught in a poorly timed short-handed line change on the second goal.
Jordan Binnington will start for the Blues after his 51 save performance in Game 1. Binnington was lights out to end the third and well into overtime. It took a screened shot from the point to beat him. He kept his team in it late and got some love from the posts and hockey gods. The Avalanche beat Binnington and hit the post four or five times in game one. If he carries confidence into Game 2, he could be tough to get by, but Tuesday’s loss could have crushed his will.