The Colorado Avalanche play game 2 against the St. Louis Blue in their first. After drubbing the Blackhawks on opening night, Colorado looks to assert dominance vs Blues.
The Colorado Avalanche came out firing against the Blackhawks and left Ball Arena with a 4-2 win. The only true question I had for this roster coming in was quieted considerably as Darcy Kuemper looked more than up to the task of replacing Philipp Grubauer. They did lose Captain Gabriel Landeskog for 2 games due to a suspension stemming from a bad hit late in the Blackhawks game. And star Nathan MacKinnon has been ruled out for Saturday due to a positive COVID test right before opening night. Devon Toews is still on the injured list. But they did get back their coach Jared Bednar after his own bout with COVID.
Despite the losses of Mack, Landy, and Toews, this team still has plenty of star power, scoring, and defense. The ridiculous depth of this roster with Cale Makar, Bo Byram, Nazem Kadri, etc. should be just fine for the next few games. They first face the St. Louis Blues, a team they swept out of the playoffs in the first round last year. Colorado and St. Louis actually split the regular-season series 3-3.
St. Louis made the playoffs despite a negate point differential (-1), which means they were stout in close games going 27-20 overall. But that lack of scoring did them in during their first-round matchup with the Avalanche. With the distraction of Vladimir Tarasenko’s trade request still looming, and no moves outside of Pavel Buchnevich and Bradon Saad, I see no true upgrades on this St. Louis roster.
Against a better team, say Tampa Bay or Las Vegas, the loss of Mack, Landy, and Toews would worry me. But with the way, Kuemper played in game one, and this being a home game, I’m much less anguished. This St. Louis squad should not be taken lightly, but outside of their top-line, Colorado blows every other line out of the water in pure talent. So we will put “biggest concern” in quotations.
Colorado was 0-4 on the Power Play Wednesday night. While giving up a Power Play goal to Chicago. This is a small sample, but a continuation from last year where the Av’s 5-on-5 dominance was unmatched. But was at the bottom of the league with the advantage and against the advantage. Something that really showed up against the more physical Golden Knights in the playoffs. This is why Sakic went out and got the likes of Jack Johnson and Kurtis MacDermid and moved Nichushkin to the second line and PP unit. We’ll see if we start seeing the fruits of his labor against a light Blues defense that will most likely be without David Perron.
The Avalanche would battle in the first, dominate the second, then found a way to stem the tide in the third.
The Avalanche entered Enterprise Center for the first time in a year. They were hunting their first win there against the St. Louis Blues since March 18th, 2018. These are not your 2018 Avalanche, or Blues for that matter. This matchup saw a team in the Blues fighting for their playoff lives. Facing the number 1 seed in the league that found out mere hours before the game Philipp Grubauer, the best goalie in the league this year, was put on the COVID-19 list. This means they could see the remainder of their season without their and the the NHL’s number 1 goaltender.
This just meant we all got a look at the newest goalie acquired by Joe Sakic in Devan Dubnyk. Sakic never looked more prescient as he does now when everyone was questioning why they were “wasting” a roster spot on a 3rd goalie. We also got to see an end to the Carl Soderberg/Tyson Jost “controversy” of who would play Center. That was answered mere moments into the first as Soderberg started at Left-Wing and Jost was at his usual Center position.
St. Louis would come out firing to test the newly-acquired veteran goalie early and often. Too bad for them the Avalanche defense was up to the task, blocking as many shots (8) as Blues had shots-on-goal (8) for the period. The Avalanche, even though falling behind 5-3 in the SOG category, ended up out-shooting the Blues 10-8 by the end of the period. Returning things to normal for the Colorado kids. To go further into the norm, the Avs struck first.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare put his 6th past Jordan Binnington at 10:28 into the first. This was done after some grunt work by JT Compher against the boards, digging the puck out of 3 Blues defenders. he then bounced a pass off Belly that went to Liam O’Brien who promptly tapped it to the deft lefty who put a wrister past Binnington before he could react for his 6th goal of the season.
Here is said goal by Bellemare courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Social Team:
Dubnyk and his mates were up to the constant pressure of the Blues for most of the period. Matching them shot for shot, Blues got a bit more physical though out-hitting the Avs 14-9. The Blues would break through at 15:20 into the period as Vince Dunn put his 6th of the year. Tyler Bozak threaded a perfect pass to Dunn through the middle of the zone that he simply used his stick to redirect just past the right pad of Dubnyk. Both teams would bang each other around for the final 4+ minutes to end the period in a 1-1 tie.
The Blues had to be feeling good being on a 3-game win-streak over the Golden Knights and Wild. Well, the Avalanche had a 3-game streak of their own, albeit a less impressive Ducks/Yotes duo. The Avalanche commenced showing why they are the current #1 seed in the playoffs, their scoring depth. The scoring began quickly at 2:52 into the 2nd period with an opportune goal by Compher as he was rewarded for being in the right place at the right time, as usual, for his 6th. That makes 3 straight players scoring their 6th of the year, do with that what you will. This made it 2-1 Avalanche up.
Here is that goal by JT courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Social Team:
Mikko Rantanen would continue his excellent season parking his 26th of the season past Pinnington on a searing one-timer that went through Liam O’Brien’s legs and over the goalies’ glove arm. This put him within 6 of Auston Matthews who has been pacing the league for most of the season. This does not make it likely for Mikko to overtake the Maple Leaf’s star, but it means the Moose still has a chance if he can keep producing with a couple of big games mixed in. Should be a fun race to watch as we hit the final stretch. This put the Avalanche lead at 3-1 and gave them yet another power-play goal which has quietly been turning into a strength.
Brandon Saad got in on the action at 11:17 into the period when Tyson Jost flaunted the speed flying behind the net and out the right side, then dishing a perfect centering pass to Saad who one-timed it to the net. This built a seemingly commanding 3 goal lead for the Avalanche at 4-1. Dubnyk was doing a great job of holding the Blues at bay, the defense was still blocking shots like men possessed and they ended 2-periods of hockey with that same lead.
Here is some evidence of how insane Dubnyk played at points in this game courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Social Team:
The 3rd period would see the Blues sniper do his job as Mike Hoffman would put in his 12th of the season at 5:55 into the period to draw the Blues to within two at 4-2. He would further the damage from afar with his 13th at 16:44 for the Blues second power-play goal of the game making it 4-3. The Blues tried the strategy of hitting everything moving with a 32-20 hit advantage over the Avalanche. They even outshot the Avalanche 34-28. And the third had the Blues throw everything they had to scratch out at least a point. It was simply too little too late as that ridiculous scoring depth for the Avs (9 different players had a point) was able to survive the late onslaught due to the early lead they built.
Just look at this shot chart for the 3rd period courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:
That is a true illustration of “shot disparity”, the last 1:30+ was spent in the Avalanche zone with St. Louis just beating on Dubnyk. The defense was up to the task with 18 total blocked shots, and Dubnyk ended up stopping 31-34 SOG. This Avalanche team is not going to simply beat you into submission physically. They break you mentally, no matter how much effort, how many many on the ice, what defense you play, how you switch, or how hard you hit them. They simply get back up, fly down the ice, then sound the horn. Over, and over, and over again. I’ve never been tortured, nor tortured anyone, but I imagine this has to be how the opposition feels on a nightly basis, pure torturous pain. Avs win 4-3 on their first night without Gru.