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Series even now under the Arch

The St. Louis Blues did what they needed to do while they were in the Mile-High City. They earned a key split. Now the round two match-up shifts to the Gateway City. Most pundits and Vegas look at St Louis as the underdogs. After game one, it sure appeared that way.

St Louis was out-played, out-matched, and out-gunned. They allowed 41 shots in the first 60 minutes while only taking 26. Yet the Blues were able to force overtime. It was in the extra session that the Avalanche talent took over, taking 13 shots and netting the winning tally.

Complete win

ST. LOUIS, MO – DECEMBER 29: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Edmonton Oilers at the Enterprise Center on December 29, 2021 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)
Credit: Scott Rovak/Getty Images

The general consensus was that the Blues were no match for the mighty Avs and this would be a quick series. The boys from the Lou with 13 Stanley Cups between them were not buying it.

The Avalanche played the St. Louis Blues perfectly in game one and in game two, contrary to the comments made by Nathan MacKinnon; they played the same way in the second match-up. “Everyone was off tonight.” MicKinnon said “Really off. We still had a chance to tie it up. … We’ve got to move on.”

“We were really bad tonight.” He Continued “Years past, we might dwell on it and get down on ourselves and each other. But we’ve just got to pick each other up and move on.”

Peter Baugh of the Athletic.com posted on Twitter, “Jared Bednar’s outlook for Game 3:” “I think we’re going to get a really good game from our guys. Our best game is to be determined. We’re always in search of the perfect game. But I think our guys are going to respond.” #Avs 

Looking back on the two games, I feel it is hard to say the Avalance did not play a good game. In game one, they scored two goals on 41 shots. An average of one goal per 20.5 shots. In game two, they netted one goal on 31 shots. while not as good as the first contest, not horrible either.

In the first game, the Avalance went zero for three on the Power Play (PP) and zero for one on the Penalty Kill (PK). That means the Blues’ special teams were perfect in game one. Game two saw each team going one for two on the PP. The Avalance special teams were better in the second tilt.

Overall, the Avalanche did not play a worse game, the Blues just played a better one.

Game three should be more of the same. Here are my three keys to this third battle of Kroenke

Tarasenko and the Spetsnaz line assaulting the league

1. Goalie Duel

While the two teams have scored 10 goals in the first two games, both match-ups have been very close. Minus the empty-net marker in the last game, no team has had more than a two-goal lead. The Avalanche have not led by more than a goal in this series.

Both Jordan Binnington and Darcy Kuemper have played stellar. Binnington is 4-1 with a .948 S% and a 1.75 GAA in the playoffs. Kuemper numbers are just as good, going 3-1 with a.923 S%and a 1.98 GAA.

Binnington keys

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

If both of these netminders continue to play at this elite level, goals will be scarce and team defense could come into play. Binnington’s resurgence has come as a pleasant surprise for the Blues, but he did show signs of this during the month of April.

For Kuemper this is a bit of a coming-out party. Prior to this season, he had played in 18 games starting 14 with a 7-6 record. His .913 S% and 2.86 GAA are pedestrian at best. He has never had the level of talent in front of him before, so this is his chance to move into elite status.

Kyrou is a shooing star in 22

2. Special Teams

The Blues are what we thought they were, and have been at the top of the league in every special team category most of this season. The Blues have scored a power-play goal in all eight games. Their 10 goals are second only to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 11 and their PP%  34.5% is second only to Colorado’s 38.1%.

The Avalanche’s numbers are skewed a bit from their series with the Nashville Predators. They are one for five against the Blues and have allowed two PP goals on just three chances.

While the officials have kept their whistle in their pockets for the beginning of this series, I expect them to be blown a lot more as the series shifts to the Enterprise Center. the have been just eight penalties called in the first two games of this series, compared to 12 for the Rangers and Hurricanes, 18 for the Panthers and Lightning, and 35 for the Battle of Alberta.

If the whistles come out the Blues could take advantage as they did in both games one and two.

3. Stars being Stars

In the first round, the Avalanche was a scoring machine. Cale Makar had 10 points, MacKinnon five goals, Gabriel Landeskog six points (3G, 3A) and five points from Devon Toews and Mikko Rantanen. Against the Blues, they have scored just four goals.

If Colorado is to win games three or four, their stars must be their stars. Mackinnon, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, and Nazem Kadri need to find the back of the net.

The Blues on the other side have found the back of the net. Jordan Kyrou and David Perron both have two goals and captain Ryan O’Reilly and Brandon Saad have a marker apiece. While Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich. and Robert Thomas have not found the twine, they could become X-factors on home ice.

Camp

Blues Captain Ryan O’Reilly

While not a must-win, game three is pivotal for both teams. Colorado has not faced any real adversity or challenge in this tournament. they also have not been past the second round in 20 years. The ghosts of their past failures could sneak up on them should they lose game three. The Blues just excised one demon after beating the Avalanche for just the second time in the playoffs.

Winning Game three for the Blues could help catapult them into the third round for the third time since 2016.

This should be a great game and a long interesting series.

Till next time hockey fans.

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