Blues 2022-23 Opponent Preview: Colorado Avalanche

The St. Louis Blues will meet their Central Division rivals 26 times during the regular season, which includes four matchups against the Colorado Avalanche. How will they fare against the reigning Stanley Cup champions? Let’s find out.

Colorado Avalanche

2021-22 Record: 56-19-7 (119 points, Stanley Cup Champions)

Notable Additions: Alexander Georgiev, Jonas Johansson, Brad Hunt, Lukas Sedlak

Notable Losses: Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Darcy Kuemper, Nico Sturm, Jack Johnson, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Ryan Murray

Blues 2021-22 Season Series Against Colorado: 1-2-0

Avalanche Quest to Defend Cup Begins

The Avalanche were a team with limited salary cap flexibility this offseason but had several players they desired to re-sign. Their cap constraints allowed them to re-sign supporting cast players such as Andrew Cogliano, Andrew Mason, and Darren Helm and prevented them from bringing back players Nazem Kadri and Darcy Kuemper. The Avalanche’s front office opted to move on from Kadri after a career year resulting in 28 goals and 87 points over 71 regular season games. The team’s depth benefited from Kadri in the postseason, as he accounted for seven goals and 15 points in 16 games. The team will have their work cut out for them as they look to return to the playoffs and contend for a consecutive Stanley Cup championship.

Forwards

Colorado’s projected top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen should be returning in full force for the 2022-23 season. The trio all managed to score at least 30 goals throughout the season and remains one of the best lines in the NHL. The teams’ second, third, and fourth lines boast a well-rounded group of forwards that can play a complete 200-foot game and beat teams in every zone. Over the offseason, the Avalanche re-signed both Valeri Nichushkin (eight years, $49 million) and Artturi Lehkonen (five years, $22.5 million), solidifying a reliable, strong second line that scored a combined 17 goals and 29 points over the playoffs. 

Valeri Nichushkin Colorado Avalanche
Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The ascension and potential breakout of Alex Newhook could provide the Avalanche with the depth they need to recoup the loss of Kadri down the middle. Selected 16th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, he has played in 77 regular season games in the NHL, scoring 13 goals and 36 points. The club will need players like Newhook to step up and take on the additional responsibility if they look to maintain their balanced lineup throughout the season.

The club will also have valuable veteran depth on their third and fourth lines through Helm, Jayson Megna, and Cogliano. The veterans could play a pivotal role with players like Ben Meyers only having five career games under his belt, Newhook with under 100 games played, and Logan O’Connor with 124 career games.

Defense

On defense, the Avalanche will see nearly all the same faces returning. Their first pair should see Cale Makar and Devon Toews reunited. The duo averaged just over 25 minutes on ice per game during the 2021-22 season with a combined 41 goals and 138 points scored. The two defensemen ranked second and 10th, respectively, in total points scored in the regular season.

Related: Avalanche’s Byram Capable Of Stepping Up After Girard Injury

The projected second-pairing unit of Samuel Girard and Josh Manson could be a point of interest for many. While it appears that the Avalanche are content with keeping their deep defensive group together, Girard is a player that could remain an option to be moved out, should they find the need for additional cap space or forward/goaltending depth in the future. Acquired at the trade deadline, Manson appeared in 22 regular season games, scoring seven points (two goals, five assists) with a minus-11 rating. He was a different player over the postseason, scoring eight points (three goals, five assists) and a plus-six rating while averaging just over 17 minutes on ice. 

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lighting 2-1 in game six of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals (Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The club’s projected third-pairing brings together the old and new guard on defense with the combination of Erik Johnson and Bowen Byram. The 21-year-old Byram is a creative defender that packs a powerful shot and could be a surprise player capable of logging minutes and points this coming season. Should an injury occur, he is likely the first one to make the jump and see additional responsibilities.

At 34, Johnson could be nearing the end of his professional hockey career. He will be one of the mainstays in the lineup this season, but it could be in a limited role. Over the 2021-22 regular season and playoffs, he saw 17 minutes on ice, a metric that could be repeated this season given the number of talented players on defense.

Goaltending

Entering his fourth season in the NHL, Pavel Francouz will fight for the starting goaltender position against the team’s newest goaltender, Alexander Georgiev. Having played only 57 regular season games in his career, Francouz will have his work cut out for him during the 2022-23 season. While his career .921 save percentage (SV%) projects confidence, his 2021-22 stats of .916 SV% in the regular season and .906 SV% postseason could have the coaching staff giving the Bulgarian netminder, Georgiev, an opportunity to take matters into his own hands. The 26-year-old newcomer has played the last five seasons in New York while amassing a career .908 SV% over 129 regular season games and could push his goaltending counterpart for the starting role in Colorado.

How Do the Blues Match Up?

If there is any position that the Blues could exploit the Avalanche, it will be the club’s goaltending. These two teams were neck and neck with one another in goals for per game at 3.77 and 3.76, respectively, and goals allowed per game (2.91/2.83) over the regular season. While both teams suffered significant losses to their squads, they should each remain among the top clubs by the end of the year. They boast two of the deepest lineups in the NHL and should be must-watch television for any NHL fan this coming season.


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