The Avalanche have plenty of firepower, with four players who produced more than 80 points and seven players who scored more than 20 goals. However, the Blues have some firepower of their own, with nine players who scored 20 or more goals during the regular season and four who produced more than 70 points. The balanced attack and defensive units will be put to the test in a series that has the potential to go the distance.
2 Storylines: Blues
Blues Meet Avalanche Again in Postseason
The two teams met in the 2021 Playoffs when the Avalanche were the top-seeded team in the Western Conference and made quick work of their opponent, defeating them in a 4-0 series sweep. They also met in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers when Colorado’s Nazem Kadri scored the game-winning power-play goal with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. For the third year in a row, the Blues and Avs will square off as St. Louis looks to even the score and advance to the Western Conference Final.
“I think we’re a better team than last year for sure,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s going to be a very tough challenge for us. They are one of, if not the best, teams in the league this year. It’s going to be a fun and tough challenge again for us.”
During the regular season, Jordan Kyrou led the Blues with six points, all assists, against the Avalanche. St. Louis will need all hands on deck to compete against a powerhouse Colorado team that is a heavy Cup favorite.
Binnington Could Be Key to Blues Playoff Success
Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington will likely want to put the regular season behind him. The 2019 Stanley Cup Champion has seen better days and was a big part of the team’s victory over the Minnesota Wild in Round 1. Heading into Round 2, Binnington will look to change the course of his regular-season play, especially against their Central Division opponents.
After losing two games in a row, head coach Craig Berube turned to his veteran goaltender to help turn the tides, and Binnington has an impressive 3-0 record this postseason with a 1.67 goals-against average (GAA) and a .943 save percentage (SV%). The Blues will need the 28-year-old to continue his stellar play to get by the Avalanche.
Binnington was called upon for all three regular-season games against the Avalanche, winning only one. He allowed 11 goals with a 3.78 GAA and a .897 SV%. His inconsistent play and lack of playoff success since the 2019 championship run have led to several trade rumors, especially after pending unrestricted free agent Ville Husso stole the starting job this year. The series against the Avalanche will likely play a part in what the Blues’ front office attempts to do with him moving forward and if his future is in St. Louis.
2 Storylines: Avalanche
Kuemper Ready for Round 2
Colorado’s starting goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, has stated that he is ‘good to go’ for Game 1 against the Blues. The 32-year-old missed the final game of the four-game series sweep against the Nashville Predators in Round 1 after Predators’ forward Ryan Johansen’s stick hit him in the right eye through his mask.
During the regular season, Kuemper appeared in all three games against the Blues, posting a 2-1 record, along with a 3.40 goals-against average and a .870 save percentage.
Of the play that caused the injury, Kuemper said: “I didn’t know what happened until I watched it. It happened so quickly. Obviously, pretty scary when your eyes are involved but, you know, I got pretty lucky that it wasn’t worse. I think just bad luck.”
This is the second time that the goaltender has taken a stick to the face through his mask. On April 2, 2019, Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis’ stick also went through his mask on a follow-through.
Avalanche Tired of Waiting Around
After completing the sweep on May 9, the top-seeded Western Conference team will have had more than a week off between games. When asked about the time off, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said: “Tired of waiting. We needed the time to get it a couple of days for rest and once we found out that it was St. Louis and we needed a few days to prepare as coaches before we start presenting stuff to our players to get organized. But now that we’ve had those days, we’re ready to go” (from ‘Avalanche tired of waiting while St. Louis Blues recover from six-game series,’ The Denver Post, 5/15/22).
The Avalanche will need to strike early against the Blues after such a long break. Against the Predators, the team was led by defenseman Cale Makar who scored three goals and 10 points in four games. Colorado has been practicing small-ice one-on-one and two-on-two drills to help keep players focused.
Of the break and the second round preparation, Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews said: “It’s just day-by-day for us at this point. We want to play soon, hopefully. But we’re just trying to focus on day-to-day, doing what we need to do to prepare for St. Louis at this point.”
Players to Watch
St. Louis: David Perron – Five goals and nine points over six games in series against Minnesota
Colorado: Nathan MacKinnon – Scored five goals and six points in four game series against Nashville
Projected Line Combinations
St. Louis Blues
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Brayden Schenn||Ryan O’Reilly||David Perron|
|Pavel Buchnevich||Robert Thomas||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Brandon Saad||Ivan Barbashev||Jordan Kyrou|
|Alexi Toropchenko||Tyler Bozak||Scott Perunovich|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Nick Leddy||Colton Parayko|
|Calle Rosen||Justin Faulk|
|Niko Mikkola||Robert Bortuzzo|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Valeri Nichushkin||Nathan MacKinnon||Mikko Rantanen|
|Gabriel Landeskog||Nazem Kadri||Artturi Lehkonen|
|Andre Burakovsky||JT Compher||Nicolas Abue-Kubel|
|Darren Helm||Nico Sturm||Logan O’Connor|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Devon Toews||Cale Makar|
|Samuel Girard||Josh Manson|
|Bowen Byram||Erik Johnson|
Blues’ Next Game: Thursday May 19 at Colorado Avalanche (8:30pm CST)
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.