Avalanche at Blues preview: Setting precedent for potential playoff series

St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17)Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17)Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche face off for the final time this season on Monday. Finishing up three consecutive matches against each other, St. Louis and Colorado have split their last two contests, with the Avalanche taking last Thursday’s game 4-2 and the Blues getting revenge with a 5-3 comeback victory last Saturday. As Colorado vies for the top spot in the West Division, St. Louis looks to overtake the Arizona Coyotes for the final playoff spot. If both teams manage to pull off their feats, the Avalanche and Blues will go to battle in the first round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs. Monday’s game could set the precedent for the two sides if they do indeed meet again later next month.

Last Saturday’s game saw a valiant come-from-behind win for the Blues, led by captain Ryan O’Reilly’s third career hat trick (and second of the season). St. Louis fell into a 2-0 hole early in the first period, but with a full team effort they were able to climb back out of it and take a 3-2 lead into the first intermission. After the team went scoreless in the second period, Mike Hoffman fired home the game-winning goal in the dying seconds of a third-period five-on-three power play. O’Reilly put the icing on the cake with an empty-netter for his third goal and fourth point of the game. It was not the prettiest of wins, but a win is a win, and Blues fans were quite pleased to see some fire back in the team. If St. Louis carries momentum forward, Monday’s matchup should be another fun one to watch.

The Blues’ only other win against the Avalanche this season came in its season opener. If St. Louis manages to win on Monday, that will make it two wins in a row over Colorado. That won’t do much to make the Blues’ current 2-5-0 record vs. the Avalanche look any nicer, but it will certainly give them an extra boost of confidence if they do end up going to battle in the playoffs.

Jordan Binnington and Jonas Johansson are expected to start in net for St. Louis and Colorado, respectively, on Monday. Binnington has struggled as of late, with his highest save percentage (SV%) in his last four games coming as a mediocre .903 SV% performance last Saturday. In this final matchup against the Avalanche, he will need to step his game up another notch to prove he is capable of carrying the Blues through a difficult upcoming schedule as the team looks to win a tightly-contested playoff race. On the other side of the ice, Johansson will make his 19th career NHL start, and second against St. Louis. The Avalanche netminder was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres ahead of this year’s trade deadline and led his new team to a 3-2 win over the Blues on April 2, posting a strong .926 SV%. St. Louis will need to get pucks past him early to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

The puck drops at Enterprise Center on Monday at 6:00 p.m. CT.

As per NHL.com, the Blues’ projected lineup against the Avalanche is as follows:

Brayden Schenn – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron

Jaden Schwartz – Tyler Bozak – Vladimir Tarasenko

Ivan Barbashev – Robert Thomas – Jordan Kyrou

Sammy Blais – Mike Hoffman

Torey Krug – Justin Faulk

Jake Walman – Marco Scandella

Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo

Steven Santini

Jordan Binnington

Ville Husso

Scratched: Kyle Clifford, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern

Injured: Colton Parayko (upper body), Vince Dunn (upper body)