It's funny how fast things turn around in the NHL. At the beginning of the month, the Blues couldn't hold a two-goal lead to save their life, coughing up 3 of them in a row. Then it became a point streak, and now we find ourselves with only 2 regulation losses in the past 10 games, and winners of 3 in a row. The Blues are even with Dallas for 2nd in the Central Division, and 11 points up on the 4th-place Wild. Just behind them are tonight's opponent, the Colorado Avalanche. Their 51 points on a 24-21-3 record puts them in the last wild card position. If they were in the Pacific, they'd be in 2nd place. Just goes to show how cutthroat the Central remains. The hills of Colorado are alive with the sound of desperation.
The Avalanche are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt, and have won 6 out of their last 10 games, including the last two in a row. Both teams are looking to extend their streaks, but only one will be successful. Their top scorers are the usual suspects: Matt Duchene leads in goals with 22, and he shares the points lead (38) with Nathan MacKinnon (15G, 23A). The biggest question marks for the Avs are on the blueline. They've been missing our old buddy Erik Johnson lately, but they still have Francois Beauchemin and Tyson Barrie to rely on. EJ has been cleared to skate, and will probably make his return this weekend - possibly tonight, but coach Roy has not announced that yet. Stay tuned.
On our bench, we'll be welcoming Colton Parayko and Carl Gunnarsson back to action.
The Blues have often had difficulties with getting shots on net, although things have certainly improved lately. It seems important to note that in the previous two meetings with Colorado, the Blues got 42 and 25 shots on them. The Avs have been an analytics sinkhole in recent seasons, and the lack of depth in D is showing in their shots against. They'll have a fighting chance as long as their goalie can get into the zone and bail them out. If he doesn't ... well, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen live for games like that.
Along those lines, the Avs will probably have Semyon Varlamov in net. This year he's posted a 17-12-3 record with a .913 Sv%, while in his career against St Louis he has a .941 Sv%. To beat him, the Blues will need to continue to improve on the number of shots that get on goal. If they can keep the pressure up, he will crack eventually. The Blues will start Brian Elliott, of course. He hasn't faced Colorado yet this year, although he has posted a .938 SV% in his six starts since Allen's injury. I'd expect him to play a little more conservatively than Jake. I don't expect him to have quite the same wanderlust.
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Final Verse: Go ahead and hit the office Friday happy hour, you've got time. With Mountain Time, the puck doesn't drop until 8:00 St Louis time, and the GDT should drop shortly before that. The TV broadcast will be on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. Come join us in the thread, won't you? I intend on doing #ShotsForGoals , so I hope that by the end of the game I can't feel my face....