Blues Playoff Primer – 2nd Round: Colorado Avalanche

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After a gruelling first-round series that required six out of a possible seven games, the St. Louis Blues eliminated the Minnesota Wild and are marching on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2018-19 season. Their reward for this accomplishment is a date with the Colorado Avalanche, the number one team in the Western Conference all season long and the odds on favourite to win the Stanley Cup.

It feels as if the entire 2021-22 season for the Blues has led up to this moment. These two clubs have consistently been at the top of the Central Division for the past several years and are meeting each other in the postseason for the second consecutive year. Last year’s first-round meeting between the Blues and Avalanche resulted in a four-game sweep in favour of Colorado, which prompted Blues GM Doug Armstrong to make significant changes in the offseason in order to compete with the Avs. The Blues kicked off the season all the way back in October with a 5-3 win over the Avalanche in Denver, proving they can compete. The two teams went on to be the class of the Western Conference all season long, so it’s no surprise to see them butting heads once again.

Projected Game 1 Lineup

Brayden SchennRyan O’ReillyDavid Perron

Brandon SaadRobert ThomasJordan Kyrou

Pavel BuchnevichIvan BarbashevVladimir Tarasenko

Alexei ToropchenkoTyler BozakLogan Brown

Nick LeddyColton Parayko

Scott PerunovichJustin Faulk

Niko MikkolaRobert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington

The Blues changed up their forward lines midway through the first-round series with Minnesota, a move that paid off as St. Louis finished the series with three consecutive wins. Injuries on the back end have forced some inconsistency in the defensive pairs, with the team even opting to go with eleven forwards and seven defensemen the last couple of games. The top eleven spots up top are pretty much set in stone, with Brown likely to get the nod to start as he can provide an element of size that could come in handy in a tough matchup with the Avs. Perunovich rejoined the team in the first round after ending the regular season on injured reserve and has three points in his first three career playoff games. His ability to move the puck in transition and quarterback the power play should keep him in the lineup to start the series. The most notable lineup change made during the first round was the switch to Binnington, who won three straight games after being inserted back in the lineup with the club down 2-1. Denver has historically been a tough place to play for Binnington, though you could say that about a lot of goaltenders considering how dynamic the Avalanche offence has been in recent years.

Series Prediction

While it is an unpopular opinion and I could certainly be considered a homer, I am picking the Blues to win the series in seven games. St. Louis has improved significantly since last year’s embarrassing sweep and will have something to prove against Colorado. The offseason additions of Buchnevich and Saad combined with the ascensions of Thomas and Kyrou give the Blues the depth required to go toe to toe with the Avs. This series truly could go either way, but the fact that this Blues core has won it all before and knows what it takes to get it done tips the scales in their favour. This Avalanche team has been considered Stanley Cup favourites for multiple years and has bowed out in the second round every year with this current group. With that being said, I expect this series to be an all-out war and it should be one of the best series in the playoffs this year.

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