The St. Louis Blues knew they needed a good start against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs were well rested having swept the Nashville Predators, while the Blues had six tough games against the Minnesota Wild.
The Blues got that done – sort of. St. Louis did get the first goal of the game, but it was not a convincing game at the get go.
The shots were technically even through about halfway of the first. The Avalanche kept hitting the post or just wide though, basically doubling the Blues chances.
The Blues were nothing but one and done. Their one goal of the frame came off a turnover.
The Avalanche tried to send one up the middle and it bounced off Brayden Schenn. It fell right to an open Ryan O’Reilly who tucked it past the goaltender for a 1-0 lead.
Colorado kept dinging the post, a total of three times in the first period. The Blues were essentially trying to get to the locker room, but they were holding their own at least.
That was not true in the second period. St. Louis suddenly looked gassed almost from the get go.
Credit to Colorado for applying all the pressure, but St. Louis just looked out of sorts. The line changes went from bad in the first period to worse in the second.
The Blues were just looking to change every time they got to center ice. The lead only lasted 3:14 into the second period when the Avs knocked in a rebound that came across the net.
Colorado took their first lead of the series about eight minutes later. Scott Perunovich provided the accidental screen on Jordan Binnington, but Binner still should have got the pads down a little quicker given the length of the shot.
The Blues were playing with fire, continually letting the Avs into the zone uncontested. A combination of scrambling defense and stellar saves by Binnington kept the game within reach as it stayed 2-1 going into the third period.
The Blues actually started the third period pretty well. They outshot Colorado 5-3 in the first five minutes, but Colorado was still getting the better looks.
St. Louis was careless with the puck. Each time they turned it over, the Avalanche got a top notch look, but started putting more wide.
Somehow, the Blues managed to keep themselves in it, despite themselves. They took a foolish offensive zone penalty and managed to kill that and earn themselves their first power play when Ivan Barbashev intercepted the puck in his zone and then also picked off a pass by Darcy Kuemper.
It seemed like the Blues power play would go by the wayside. Late on, Jordan Kyrou found a seam on the near side when the Avs had a bad line change and then a quick toe drag lead to the snap shot goal to make it 2-2 with just over three minutes left.
St. Louis had a call go against Schenn with just over a minute left. He did not agree with it at all, bashing the penalty box camera into oblivion, but the Blues held on for overtime.
Given the long change, the overtime started feeling much more like the second period, with the Avs getting the bulk of the looks. Binnington kept up his stellar play.
The Blues held on and had a decent run late in the third, but they didn’t get anything done in overtime. They let Binnington get peppered with 13 shots in eight minutes and didn’t muster a shot of their own.
Eventually, the Avs snuck one through. A shot from halfway between the blue line and circle snuck through traffic, kept rising past a screened goaltender and the Avs won 3-2 in overtime.
Cons: Line changes and turnovers
Could I have given each of these things their own category? Yes.
It’s late and they were both equally frustrating. If this was a regular season game, it would be one thing, but this is a conference semifinal opener.
The Blues just looked befuddled. The Avalanche came to play, which was always going to make things very difficult, but the Blues made it too easy.
The line changes were just horrific in the first and second periods. I’m not sure if that’s on the coaching staff or the players, but the amount of chances given up due to poor line changes was astounding. Binnington should get a medal just for those particular plays against him.
Not all of it was on the players going to the bench. They needed a break and it should have been easy dump ins or plays around the boards. Instead, they handed it right to the Avalanche, springing the counter before everyone could get on the ice.
The same was true of tons of passes or whatever the team thought those were. I have not seen the Blues this weak on the puck since their midseason swoon.
Simple plays ended up right with the Avs because the Blues seemed intimidated. Easy dump ins went up the middle, giving it directly to the opposition.
The Blues better clean all of that up, or this will be a short series.
The second goal not withstanding, Jordan Binnington was absolutely fantastic in this game. He was scrambling a lot more than any Blues fan would want, since that’s not his game, but he was getting the job done.
What was impressive was Binnington’s mental edge. Plenty of goaltenders would have buckled simply because of the amount of turnovers leading to breakaways or partial breaks.
Binnington just kept his cool and forced some of those misses. Naysayers will point out that plenty of pucks beat him and hit the posts, but you could also argue that his positioning forced Colorado to put it off the post because there was nowhere else to put it at.
You could also argue the Avs should have had three goals when Erik Johnson had an open net. That is true, but Binnington never gave up on the play and got his glove in a position to make the save regardless of whether it was fanned on or not.
Midway through the third period, the Avalanche had 33 shots and 71 shot attempts. That is a ton of work on the legs and Binnington kept the Blues in the game as long as he could.
He ended the game with 51 saves. Who knows how many chances he saw, but he’ll need to rest his legs up.
Pros: Sticking with it
By all accounts, the Blues got outplayed in this game. The one position they did not get outplayed at was the one place we knew they had the advantage – goal.
Despite all that, they took advantage of their stellar net play and kept themselves hanging around. When it mattered, they found a way to tie it.
In an interesting twist, the Blues took advantage of a poor line change by the Avalanche. St. Louis had been doing that all night, but the Blues turned the tables and slipped one by on the miscue.
Credit to Kyrou for sticking with the play as well. He initially lost the puck on the drag move, but did not give up on it and put it past the goaltender with a nice shot.
I don’t care if you’re playing at home or on the road, the Blues are going to have to be better when they have the long change. In both the second period and overtime, they looked like chumps.
The Avalanche came out hard in overtime and they deserved the win. However, the Blues needed to show something…anything.
Credit to Colorado for possessing the Blues to death. To not even muster a counter attack on a Colorado line change or even register a pity shot from the neutral zone is unacceptable.
I don’t care if you’re playing an AHL team in a practice game. If you get outshot 13-0 in a full period, much less only eight minutes, then you should show some shame.
This will sound overly simplistic and perhaps naïve, but the Blues showed the Avalanche way too much respect. You want to be smart and keep the opponent in front of you, which was the game plan from Craig Berube from the start.
However, you cannot give them space by allowing them to just come at you. The Avalanche had way too many breakout attempts or shooting attempts with a defender at least three feet away from them.
I’m sure we would all be singing a different tune if the Avs blew around the defenders, but I would rather St. Louis challenge their guys than continually back in.
I really don’t know how to view this game. The positive side says the Blues were just north of awful and still forced the game to overtime, giving themselves a chance to win it.
The negative says they wasted a fantastic performance by their goaltender and also needed a fantastic performance to keep this from being 9-2. How you marry those two ideas is up to you.
In my own typical fashion, I am extremely disappointed in this game and the outcome. I still have hope for the series.
I don’t see the Blues not making adjustments or not finding another gear in the next game. Maybe they lose both in Colorado, but I think the Blues find a way to be better in Game 2.
They must be better. You cannot count on that same performance from Jordan Binnington twice in a row.
There needs to be some focus on offense. Keeping the big guns off the board is a priority, but that cannot be your sole focus or you’ll never have a chance.
Regroup, refocus and play better, with more intensity. Easier said than done, but it can be done.
The Blues need their best players to be better. O’Reilly was the only consistent player outside of Binnington.
The Russians were nonexistent, Kyrou had a flash here or there but also went back to midseason form where he coughed the puck up and everyone else was just running around, hoping the puck would hit them. There simply has to be more purpose from the guys on the ice not standing in the blue paint.
Let’s hope for a turnaround the next time out.