2 Storylines: Blues
Blues Ready for Game 2
After taking an early 1-0 lead – off a goal by Ryan O’Reilly – the Blues were overpowered by the Avalanche throughout the rest of the game. After a close first period, the team quickly saw their one-goal lead evaporate and turn to a one-goal deficit midway through the second. Goals from Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin and defenseman Samuel Girard launched an all-out assault on the Blues in the final two periods, as Colorado outshot them 33-18.
After taking care of business in their six-game series against the Minnesota Wild, the St. Louis squad had their hands full against the Avs. They managed to tie the game on a power-play goal by forward Jordan Kyrou late in the third period to force overtime. However, the Avalanche came out firing in the extra frame with 13 shots on goal, including the game-winning goal by defenseman Josh Manson. The Blues were outshot 13-0 during the overtime play and 54-25 overall.
After the game, Blues head coach Craig Berube said, “I felt going into the game that we’re right there, the way we’ve been playing. We need more guys to perform. That’s really what it boils down to. And again, we’ve got to make more plays with the puck.” In their six-game series against the Wild, St. Louis had four of their 20-goal scorers produce a goal. They have extensive scoring depth on their roster but have yet to see it take shape in the playoffs.
Binnington’s Stellar Performance Wasted
St. Louis and the rest of the hockey world witnessed a performance to remember by goaltender Jordan Binnington on Monday night in Colorado. Stopping 51 of 54 shots, he gave his team every chance to succeed in Game 1. Binnington had to make a few routine plays throughout the game and others that were not so routine.
The team struggled against a speedy Colorado team that has yet to lose in the playoffs. The Blues had a 36 percent success rate on the faceoff, the second-lowest this season. O’Reilly went 12-for-16, while fellow centers Robert Thomas and Ivan Barbashev combined for a 5-for-15 success rate.
Of his team’s play, Kyrou said, “We’ve got to do a better job on the forecheck, trying to stop pucks more. I think we were backing off a lot. Obviously, that gives them room, and they’re a fast team, so they’re going to take advantage of that. We’ve just got to be better on the forecheck and break pucks out more, and that’ll help us sustain more O-zone time” (from ‘Overtime or not, Blues can’t beat Colorado if they can’t contain Avalanche’s speed,’ The Athletic, May 18, 2022).
2 Storylines: Avalanche
Colorado Willed Their Win
With a 5-0 record this postseason, Colorado is feeling their groove. Down 1-0 after the first 20 minutes of play, the Avalanche continued to push together as a unit. They blocked shots, limited St. Louis to single-digit shots on goal each period, and pushed offensively.
Following their Game 1 victory, captain Gabriel Landeskog said, “The reality is that sometimes you’re going to play really well, and you’re going to feel like you deserve to win, but you don’t. Tonight we were a real resilient group in there. It felt a lot like Game 2 against Nashville at home. In overtime, we just stressed, just keep playing, just keep playing. We were creating a lot. It was only a matter of time to hem them in and [Manson] put it top shelf.”
The team’s fifth victory echoed their effort, preparation, and trust in the game plan set in place by the Colorado coaching staff. The team knew how to beat the St. Louis squad down to the micro details.
Head coach Jared Bednar said of his team’s win: “We’ve talked to our team all year long about being resilient and being mentally tough. We came back and got back to our game. We didn’t capitalize on the power play but just kept doing what we were doing throughout the course of the 60 minutes. Eventually, we felt like we’d have a chance to break them down and get the winner. Our guys believed it. They worked hard. They got the winner, and they earned it.”
Kuemper Returns in Style
Appearing in his first game back since sustaining an injury to his right eye, Darcy Kuemper stopped 23 of 25 shots in Game 1. The 32-year-old goaltender left during the team’s third game against the Nashville Predators in Round 1 after Ryan Johansen’s stick poked through his goalie mask and struck his eye.
Kuemper has been excellent for the Avalanche during his first season with the franchise. Playing in 57 games during the regular season, he has a 37-12-4 record with a 2.54 goals-against average (GAA) and .921 save percentage (SV%), with five shutouts. His success has continued into the playoffs, recording three of the team’s five victories and carrying a 1.67 GAA and .930 SV%.
Kuemper signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes worth $9,000,000 on Oct. 2, 2019. He was traded to the Avalanche on July 28, 2021, in exchange for defenseman Conor Timmins, a conditional 2021 1st-round draft pick, and a conditional 2024 3rd-round draft pick.
Players to Watch
St. Louis: Vladimir Tarasenko
Colorado: Gabriel Landeskog
Projected Line Combinations
St. Louis Blues
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Pavel Buchnevich||Ryan O’Reilly||David Perron|
|Brandon Saad||Robert Thomas||Jordan Kyrou|
|Ivan Barbashev||Brayden Schenn||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|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|
|Andrew Cogliano||Nico Sturm||Darren Helm|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Devon Toews||Cale Makar|
|Samuel Girard||Josh Manson|
|Bowen Byram||Erik Johnson|
Blues’ Next Game: Thursday May 21 vs Colorado Avalanche (7:00pm 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.