Well-rested Avalanche to continue title quest
Good news is that the St. Louis Blues won their first playoff series since taking the Stanley Cup Championship in 2019. The bad news is that now St. Louis gets to face an offensively-gifted Colorado Avalanche squad that’s had some time to get healthier after a first-round sweep of Nashville.
The teams have met in the playoffs twice before. It hasn’t gone well for the Blues, swept out of the playoffs by Colorado last season. They fell in five games to the Avalanche in the conference finals back in 2001, though it took overtime in Games 3 and 4 of that series. There weren’t any such issues in 2021, with the Avalanche outscoring the Blues, 20-7.
According to Las Vegas odds, Colorado (-150) is the overwhelming favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Cup final, while the Blues are priced at +700.
How They Got Here
The Nashville Predators weren’t given much of a chance to knock out the Western Conference’s top-seeded Colorado Avalanche, even if the Preds were healthy. Nashville lost goalie Juuse Saros late in the regular season, thus the outcome of the first-round series was essentially a given.
Colorado outscored Nashville, 21-9, setting the tone with five goals in the first period of the opener. They had nine of the 12 first-period goals in the series. Nashville forced Colorado into overtime in the second game on the strength of a brilliant goaltending effort Connor Ingram. Ingram stopped 49 straight shots on goal before Colorado was able to get one past him.
The St. Louis Blues-Minnesota Wild series was significantly more competitive, as it figued to be. The Blues and Wild fought it for second place (behind Colorado) in the Central Division all season long. Minnesota finished four points ahead of St. Louis to annex home-ice advantage in the first-round series. Note that each of the games in the series was decided by at least three goals, with the Blues winning twice on the road to secure the series in six.
The NHL betting lines favored St. Louis to wrap the series in the sixth game, and the Blues used three second-period goals and 25 saves from Jordan Binnington to do just that.
Tale of the Tape
Colorado has the best power play in the playoffs, converting a sizzling 44 percent of the time. St. Louis scored on 31 percent of its man-advantage opportunities fourth among the 16 playoff teams.
The Blues’ eight power-play goals lead all teams, four of the goals by by Ryan O’Reilly. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon had three power-play goals in four games.
St. Louis had to kill off 24 penalties in six games, compared to 13 in four games for the Avalanche. The St. Louis-Minnesota series wasn’t physical. The Blues and Wild finished 15th and 16th, respectively, in hits per 60 minutes by the playoff teams.
Binnington no longer singing the Blues
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are usually good for creating unlikely stars, and few players had a more improbable rise to playoff stardom than St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington. Back in 2019, Binnington backstopped the Blues to their first-ever Cup.
A career-worst 3.13 goals-against average by Binnington in the regular season, but after Husso allowed nine goals on 59 shots, Binnington was back in the net.
Binnington allowed 35 goals in nine postseason games in the previous two seasons. He will need to regain the form he showed during 2018-19, when he had a GAA of 1.89 during the regular season and followed that up 2.46 mark in the postseason. He ended with all 16 playoff wins as the Blues hoisted the Cup. Binnington stopped 83 of 88 shots after getting the call in the Minnesota series.
Makar is dominating for Avalanche
Seven of Colorado’s top eight scorers in a four-game sweep against Nashville were first-round draft picks, including former No. 1 overall choices Nathan MacKinnon and Erik Johnson. However, no player shone more than defenseman Cale Makar, the fourth-overall pick in 2017.
Makar had three goals (including the overtime winner in Game 2) and seven assists in the four games. Assisting on the series’ final two goals allowed Colorado to withstand a valiant Game 4 challenge by Nashville.
Makar didn’t have a giveaway in the series, though he led Colorado with an average ice time of 25:46 minutes per game. He had the puck on his stick more than any other player in the series.
It’s no fluke, what with Makar leading all NHL defensemen with 28 goals during the regular season. The only Colorado player with a better defensive rating than Makar’s +48 was his defensive partner, Devon Toews.
Makar and Toews helped Colorado continue to win, even after an injury to starting goalie Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper is on track to be ready for Tuesday’s opener.
— Adrian Dater (@adater) May 15, 2022
Three of the four games against Nashville went over the total set by the sportsbook.
Blues vs Avalanche Head-to-Head
Colorado has won six of the last seven games against St. Louis, including a four-game sweep in the 2021 playoffs. In three regular-season matchups, Colorado had 12 goals while St. Louis finished with 11.
With the offensive stars all over the Colorado roster, it was J.T. Compher who led the way with three goals and three assists in three games against the Blues.
Jordan Kyrou assisted on six of the 11 St. Louis goals against Colorado, while Ryan O’Reily led the way with three goals, all at even strength.
A total of 42 goals were scored in the last six games between the teams, with each of the last four games having either seven or eight combined goals.
Since the start of 2020, Colorado is 8-2 at home against St. Louis, with the Avalanche outscoring the Blues, 45-28.
Blues vs Avalanche Game Information
- Game: Blues (49-22-11 in the regular season) vs Avalanche (56-19-7)
- Location: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
- Day/Time: Tuesday, May 17, 9:30 p.m.
- Blues vs Avalanche Live stream: NHL.TV
Blues vs Avalanche Betting Lines
Blues vs Avalanche Prediction
A piece of advice to St. Louis, do not start the series the way Nashville did. Allowing the Avalanche to score five goals in the first period of the opening game is a pretty good way to have a rather short series.
It remains to be seen if Colorado’s No. 1 goalie, Darcy Kuemper, is returning to the ice. He’s sidelined since taking a stick to his face in the Nashville series, with swelling around his eye. Kuemper and forward Andrew Cogliano are questionable for the opener.
St. Louis also has injury concerns as defensemen Torey Krug and Marco Scandella dealing with lower-body injuries. Krug missed the last four games of the Minnesota series., while Scandella was out for the final three..
Although St. Louis was competitive with Colorado during the regular season, it is hard to pick against Colorado as the series opens in Denver.
Pick: Colorado Avalanche (-220)
Pick: Colorado Avalanche -1½ Goals (+110)
Parlay: Colorado Avalanche (-220) and Colorado Avalanche -1½ Goals (+110) at $205