The Colorado Avalanche playoff run started off really well. After sweeping the Nashville Predators in the first round of the NHL Playoffs, the team had to wait four days to find out who their next opponent will be. Once again, they will meet the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues took Game 6 against the Minnesota Wild on a 5-1 win. Now, they move on to face one of the Stanley Cup favorites for this year. And, the Avalanche playoff history against the Blues is very favorable.
Blues Find Themselves As Colorado Avalanche Playoff Obstacle Once Again
Avalanche vs Nashville
Everyone knew — or at least had an idea — that this series would not end well for Nashville. They started off by losing their #1 goaltender, Juuse Saros, even before the regular season ended. And he didn’t recover from his lower-body injury on time to help the team. David Rittich, their backup, didn’t have a good regular season with a 6-3-4 record and a .886 save percentage. He started Game 1, but allowed five goals in 13 shots and got pulled in favor of Connor Ingram.
Now, here’s the thing: if a team is not very well structured defensively and offensively, they can’t hold Colorado back. That definitely won’t happen when a third-string goalie is in net. That’s not saying that Ingram is bad, and he wasn’t the problem throughout this series. But making saves is not enough when the team can’t score. Nashville had a lot of problems scoring, with only nine goals in four games.
Colorado did an amazing job holding them back, and an even better job at finding chances to score. Defenceman and Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar had three goals and 10 points in four games, Nathan MacKinnon had five goals and six points. Everyone was contributing! That’s what they’ll need as the Avalanche playoff run continues.
Blues vs Wild
The Blues started off the series against Minnesota with a 5-0 win, and that should’ve been a look into the future on how this would end. However, in Game 2 defenceman Nick Leddy was hurt. In Game 3, defenceman Torey Krug was also injured — and the Blues lost both games.
They bounced back in Game 4, but lost Marco Scandella for Game 5. Again, the Blues were facing a series full of injuries that could seriously hurt their playoff chances. But they managed to stick together and win three straight games to take the series, even without both Krug and Scandella, two of their main defencemen.
Now, here are a few key factors that will influence a second round between the Avalanche and the blues.
Key factors for Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues
Both teams have amazing goaltenders. Even though Ville Husso struggled a bit in the first round, he still had a .906 save percentage. Jordan Binnington went back to the 2019 Blues playoff run and got his game back together. He had a .943 save percentage against the Wild and won all three games, allowing only five goals. Both were great in the first round and were key factors for the Blues advancing to the second round.
For Colorado, it is a very similar situation. Darcy Kuemper, their starter, was injured in the first period of Game 3 and Pavel Francouz had to take over. However, Francouz had stellar performances on both Games 3 and 4 to finish the series, holding Nashville winless. Now, Kuemper is good to go, according to Jared Bednar after Thursday’s practice, which is good news for the team.
Even though it is still unknown, this probably means he will be the starter against the Blues. Against the Predators, Kuemper had a .934 save percentage, only allowing four goals in three games started. He’ll try to help the Colorado Avalanche playoff run continue and the team move on from the second round for the first time since 2002.
Something to keep an eye on is the special teams for both teams. Colorado has a better power play, with a 30.8% success throughout four games in the playoffs. However, the Blues also have a better penalty kill, with 83.3% success in six games. This should be an interesting match-up. When these teams faced each other in the first round of last year’s playoffs, the Avalanche had a 50% success on the power play, which didn’t make much of a difference — they still swept the Blues. However, it shows how strong the Blues’ penalty kill was.
Now, they’re without both Scandella and Krug, both being huge factors for their PK. But, to succeed in stopping the Colorado Avalanche playoff run from continuing beyond the second round, they’ll have to find a way to stop Colorado’s power play first.
What to expect from this series
As we wait for the rest of the first round to finish and the second to start, there are a few things to know about Colorado vs. St. Louis. The first one is that this will be a physical series, with the Avalanche trying to repeat last year’s success and the Blues trying to get their revenge.
But this shouldn’t be a high-scoring series. Both teams have amazing goaltending and a solid defensive system which means that, if everything works out well and no injuries happen, we should have some very close games. A seven-game series is likely between these two — unlike last year’s first round.