The St. Louis Blues already passed the halfway point of the NHL season. However, as most people consider the All-Star break the half, teams are ready for a break.
The St. Louis Blues, like most NHL teams, are ready for the All-Star break. The players staying in town to take part in the festivities don’t have the pain in the rear of travel and the ones going on a break will get a much-needed respite.
Just like Craig Berube had to earn his money to get this team ready and mentally focused prior to the season, he will have to do it again. While it is just one game, the Blues cannot afford to have themselves thinking about a week off with a fellow Stanley Cup contender standing right in front of them.
The Blues don’t get an easy game prior to their break. They have to take on the high-octane Colorado Avalanche, a division rival and team with rising aspirations.
Depending on the result of the Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders, the Blues have an opportunity to go into the break with the best record in the NHL. That would be a minor achievement, of course, but still another feather in the cap.
That all depends on defeating Colorado. That’s not the easiest thing to do.
How They Stack Up
The Blues enter this game 10 points up on the Avalanche in the standings with 68 points for the year. The Blues current record sits at 30-10-8.
Colorado has a record of 26-15-6. They do have a game in hand on St. Louis though.
St. Louis, despite fan reservation about scoring, is no slouch with 155 goals. Only two teams in the conference have more.
Colorado is one of those teams. Their defense still lacks, but with 168 goals for, they are still an impressive plus-31 in goal difference. St. Louis is plus-26.
Despite the Avalanche getting better over the last few years, including a few playoff appearances, the Blues have actually fared well against their divisional foe. 2015-16 was the last time the Avs won the season series. 2012-13 was the last time it happened before that.
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The Blues won all four meetings in 2019-20. St. Louis has already won two of three against Colorado in 2019-20 too.
The lone loss, however, was a 7-3 beatdown in Colorado in the first game of 2020. That will be fresh in the minds of Blues players, especially Jordan Binnington who let up all seven goals. Whether that has a positive impact on their play remains to be sen.
The Blues have won four of their last five, but lost their last game in an overtime loss to Philadelphia. Colorado is the opposite as they beat San Jose 4-0 in their last game, but that win ended a four-game losing streak.
Here is the projected lineup from the team website:
Schwartz – Schenn – Sundqvist
Sanford – O’Reilly – Perron
Steen – Thomas – Bozak
MacEachern – de la Rose – Barbashev
Dunn – Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester – Faulk
Gunnarsson – Bortuzzo
Binnington / Allen
According to Chris Pinkert, the lines are based on Friday’s practice lines. There will be no pregame skate given a 2 p.m. puck drop.
The goaltender situation is a gametime decision. I can’t imagine Binnington not getting another crack at the Avs for redemption, unless the Blues feel the altitude affected his play.
This is nothing against Sanford personally, but even the team sees when he is not playing. Against Philadelphia, his shifts were cut in half if not eliminated as the game went on.
The Blues have repeatedly cut his ice time within individual games, but he gets chance after chance while younger players seem to be punished for one mistake.
This game scares me for some reason. I do not believe we will see a repeat of the 7-3 debacle the last time out, but I am not confident of a win either.
Berube will have the right message and he is going to do everything he possibly can to avoid the pre-break letdown. However, you can say all the right things but individuals subconscious’s can have other things in mind.
I think this will be a close game, but if the Blues fall down early similar to against Philadelphia, I don’t think they get back up. Mark this one on the calendar, but the guy that always predicts a win is not doing so for once.
I think the Blues will be just distracted enough. I see a 4-3 loss.
Hopefully that will be wrong. For fans and players, a win prior to more than a week without real hockey would be nice.