Nathan McKinnon we saw a team that simply could not climb the ice at their usual speed. Failed to create quality scoring chances. Failed to get into the stream.
It wasn’t them.
“We were bad,” the Colorado forward admitted after a 4-1 loss to St. Louis that tied the game in the second round every game. “Really bad.”
The Blues took all the right steps, from shuffling their lanes to create more offense to finding a way to score the middle and upset the Avalanche’s fast players.
It’s now Colorado’s turn in this high-stakes game of chess on ice, and the series moves to St. Louis for Game 3 on Saturday (8:00 pm ET, TNT).
All on the table, also for the best seeding in the West. This includes line changes and possibly changing players.
“You can’t win the playoffs if you don’t play your best game,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said after practice on Friday. “We weren’t even close last night and it’s on us. …. Our best game is to be determined. We are always looking for the perfect game.”
First thing: find a way to create more space for McKinnon and the quarterback. Cale Makar maneuver. The Blues made it terribly difficult for them to cross the neutral zone in Game 2. Makar has yet to score a point after a streak of three goals and seven assists in Nashville’s first round.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]
There is another curious case Mikko Rantanenwho led the team in points in the regular season but has yet to score this playoff (he has seven assists).
“Do you think Mikko plays the best hockey you’ve ever seen?” Bednar asked. “We need him to be a powerful player.”
Avalanche could potentially shake things up, perhaps adding players like forwards. Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor in the lineup.
Or they could just shuffle their lines like the Blues did before Game 2. St. Louis achieved instant results by combining David Perron (two goals) Pavel Buchnevich (two assists) and Ryan O’Reilly (one assist).
Colorado may reunite top row McKinnon, Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog. But Bednar added that he was pleased with Landeskog’s performance, Nazem Kadri and Arturi Lehkonen on line. Regarding the mood of the team, Bednar said that “the guys are in a good mood.”
“They understand that it’s mostly about us – mostly about us,” he added.
However, it always hangs over the Avs: they’ve lost in the second round in each of the last three postseasons. They were 2-0 up in Las Vegas last season before losing four in a row.
“No Reason to Panic”, Defender Bowen Byram said. “You’re not going to win every playoff game. They are a good team. They know how to win. They have won before. … He just adapts.”
Blues goalkeeper Jordan Binnington puzzled Colorado. After saving 51 shots in a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1, Binnington made 30 shots back on Thursday. Since 2019, when he led the Blues to Stanley Cup victory as a rookie, he has averaged 2.74 goals.
“He made saves when he needed to,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.
Colorado’s job is to make sure he doesn’t track the puck as well as he did in the first two games.
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“Goalkeepers are so good now that if they see everything, they will stop it,” said Bednar. “Breaking the goalkeeper’s vision, even if it’s a moving screen, is very important. … We have to get in his eyes.”
In fact, however, it had a lot to do with St. Louis not allowing the Colorado to sweep across the ice. The Blues did what most failed to do: they slowed down.
They, of course, would not mind repeating the performance at home.
“This is playoff hockey. It all comes down to competing at a high level, winning battles, making sure you play with good structure, and every guy dressed up needs to be at their best,” Berube said. “That’s what we got (in the second game). In my opinion, every guy was at his best.”
For Colorado, the road win starts with an early crowd calm down. They won both games in Nashville, scoring first.
“We’re going to hit the road and hopefully steal one there, hopefully two,” McKinnon said. “We have to forget about (Game 2) and move on and get back to how we can play.”
COLORADO EVALANCE vs. ST. LOUIS BLUES (Series equal 1-1)
Game 1 – May 17: Avalanche 3, Blues 2 (OT)
Game 2 – May 19: Blues 4, Avalanche 1
Game 3 – May 21st: Avalanche at Blues 8:00 pm ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May, 23rd: Avalanche at Blues 9:30 pm ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 5 – May 25: Blues in Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – May 27: Avalanche in the Blues TBD
*Game 7 – May 29: Blues in Avalanche, TBD