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Mirage: Blues At Colorado Avalanche

The Avs have not been able to repeat last year's success.... who saw that coming? (Everyone)

Happy Birthday, Vova ... all I got you was a 3rd-string goalie. I hope you like it!
Happy Birthday, Vova ... all I got you was a 3rd-string goalie. I hope you like it!
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second meeting of the season between the Colorado Avalanche and the St Louis Blues. On November 1, the Blues played host, and the Blues won in a shootout 3-2. The Blues jumped ahead 2-0 on two tallies by Vladimir Tarasenko , but then gave up 2 power play goals in the third to let them back into the game. The game was not won until Joakim Lindstrom scored the only goal in the skills competition at the end. Notable absences in that game were T.J. Oshie and Paul Stastny.

Now, both players are back, and Stastny gets to face his old team on their ice. It might have been mentioned once or twice today already, but this is his first opportunity at playing his old team. The Avs are downplaying the significance of his absence, and some folks would point to Paul's stats as indicative to how little impact he had. Nonetheless, Paul is playing for a team that is constantly at or near to the top of the division, and the Avalanche are currently 10-13-6 and are just one point ahead of the basement-dwelling Dallas Stars. I guess this is just one of those little lies that Avs fans have to keep telling themselves.

The Avalanche are one of the favorite talking points for the analytics crowd. While they had great success in Roy's first season as coach, the underlying numbers indicated that they were propped up only by the amazing season that Semyon Varlamov was having. Once that crutch failed, the rest of it would come crashing down as well. And, just as predicted, Varlamov has a much more human 3.22 GAA this year, and a .909 save percentage. As a result the Avs are struggling to get any traction in the standings. They won their last game in a shootout Thursday, but lost the previous 4.

Varlamov is currently injured, nursing a groin pull from the 12/05 game against the Jets. Since then, the Avs have relied on call-up Calvin Pickard (4-5-0, 2.36 GAA, .926 Sv%), totally bypassing the backup goalie Reto Berra (2-2-1, 3.57, .882). Oh well, I'm sure he doesn't mind being immediately lapped by the youngster. The Av's goals leader is Matt Duchene with 10 goals and 10 assists, and he shares the points lead with defenseman Tyson Barrie (3g, 17a). Behind them on the team points chart are dinosaurs Alex Tanguay (9g, 10a) and Jarome Iginla (7g, 11a). Rounding out the top 5 is Nathan MacKinnon with 5 goals and 13 assists for 18 points. Of those top 5 scorers, only Tanguay is in the positives in the +/- category, with a +4.

The Blues will have Jake Allen in net tonight, and I'd assume Pickard will be starting for the Avs. The Blues have won 3 in a row, and hope to extend the chain to 4. Both Stastny and Tarasenko are riding 4-game point streaks; don't stop scoring, boys. I expect both of those to extend tonight also.

Further Reading:

Mile High Hockey

Blues vs Avalanche coverage

GameDay Twitter feed

Final Verse: It's a late start tonight : The puck drops at 9 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should drop shortly before that. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and also the NHL Network, while the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM.  The game will also be playing at Forest Park as part of the St Louis Classic. Bring an unwrapped toy for charity, and be eligible for prizes. Details HERE.

In the last game that the Avs played, we had the rare occurrence of a captain vs captain fight. There's a part of me that wants that to happen again tonight.