3 Keys: Blues at Avalanche, Game 2 of first round


No. 4 Blues at No. 1 Avalanche

10:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN360, TVAS2, ALT, BSMW

Colorado leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

The St. Louis Blues will look to even the Stanley Cup First Round against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

The Blues were outshot 50-23 in a 4-1 loss in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series Monday, failing to take advantage of a solid goaltending performance by Jordan Binnington. He made 46 saves on 49 shots, including 31 entering the third period of a 1-1 tie.

“We need cleaner execution with and without the puck, it all needs to blend in together,” Blues defenseman Justin Faulk said. “If we execute with the puck coming out of our end and through the neutral zone, that sets up our forecheck and when you get that going it allows us to play offense. Then, even if your forecheck is going the right way and they break the puck out, the defense has better gaps and that allows us to shut them down and create turnovers to start the cycle over again.”

Colorado is 17-0-1 in its past 18 home games, including the playoffs.

Teams with a 2-0 lead are 330-51 (86.6 percent) winning best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 4-0 in the first round last season. 

Here are 3 keys for Game 2:

1. Special teams

Colorado, which went 13-for-38 on the power play (34.2 percent) in eight regular-season games against St. Louis, was 1-for-3 in Game 1. The Avalanche were 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. 

Avalanche center Tyson Jost played 1:34 of shorthanded ice time in Game 1.

“He was skating well, good energy, put some pressure on them up ice and created some turnovers,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “Special teams this time of year are big and we won the special teams battle (in Game 1) and I guess that was the difference in the hockey game.”

Said Blues coach Craig Berube, “I think our PK did an OK job; we can’t let (Cale) Makar beat a guy 1-on-1 and score a goal … that’s a mistake. We had a couple good looks on the power play, but we got to be better on the PP too. I know (David) Perron wasn’t there (in NHL COVID-19 protocol) but we have guys who can fill that role.”

2. Dunn could provide boost 

Vince Dunn skated the past two days and is expected to return after the Blues defenseman missed the final 11 regular-season games Game 1 with an upper-body injury.

Dunn was paired with Robert Bortuzzo on Wednesday.

“We’re just worrying about the team they’re putting on the ice,” Avalanche defenseman Patrick Nemeth said. “They have a good team over there and we can’t worry or think about someone is missing, or whoever they have in their lineup. We’re just worrying about what they’re going to bring tonight in Game 2.”

Dunn scored 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 43 games and his presence could help the power play; he scored seven power-play points (two goals, five assists) and averaged 1:42 with the man advantage in the regular season.

3. O’Reilly’s line 

St. Louis captain Ryan O’Reilly knows his line needs to be better if they are again assigned to contain Colorado’s top line of center Nathan MacKinnon and forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

O’Reilly, who centered forwards Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn in Game 1, took two shots on goal and was minus-3 in 22:05 of ice time. MacKinnon’s line was plus-8 and accounted for eight points (three goals, five assists) and 16 shots on goal.

“We have to be aggressive in the defensive zone and shut their speed down and then from there, we’ve got to make strong plays,” O’Reilly said Monday. “A couple times we’re fighting it a bit and not having the talk we normally have. It’s all five guys on the ice being smarter, talking it out. Any time we can get in on them, we have to do a better job at it.”

Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz — Ryan O’Reilly — Brayden Schenn

Mike HoffmanTyler BozakVladimir Tarasenko

Ivan BarbashevRobert ThomasJordan Kyrou

Kyle CliffordZach SanfordSammy Blais

Torey Krug — Justin Faulk

Marco ScandellaColton Parayko

Vince Dunn — Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington

Ville Husso

Scratched: Niko Mikkola, Klim Kostin, Dakota Joshua, Mackenzie MacEachern, Jacob de la Rose, Steven Santini, Mitch Reinke, Austin PoganskiJoel Hofer, Jon Gillies

Injured: None

COVID-19 protocol: David Perron, Jake Walman, Nathan Walker

Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Andre BurakovskyNazem KadriJoonas Donskoi

Brandon Saad — Tyson Jost — Valeri Nichushkin

Alex NewhookPierre-Edouard BellemareJ.T. Compher

Devon ToewsCale Makar

Ryan GravesSamuel Girard

Patrik NemethConor Timmins

Philipp Grubauer

Jonas Johansson

Scratched: Bowen Byram, Devan Dubnyk, Jacob MacDonald, Liam O’Brien, Jayson Megna, Dan Renouf, Kiefer Sherwood, Carl Soderberg

Injured: Matt Calvert (upper body), Logan O’Connor (lower body)

Status report

Binnington, Schwartz, Tarasenko and Scandella did not take part in the morning skate. … Perron and Walker, each a forward, and Walman, a defenseman, remained in protocol. … The Avalanche are expected to use the same lineup from Game 1.

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