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Colorado Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues Round One Preview

It’s already off to a great start!

NHL: APR 24 Avalanche at Blues

In my years of writing about hockey and doing playoff previews, I have seen the Blues as underdogs many, many times. I myself have felt that the Blues were the underdogs probably close to just as often.

But good Lord, I have not seen probabilities and doom predictions like this in my life. MoneyPuck.com has the Blues dead last out of all teams to win the Cup, with only a 15.6% chance to make it out of the first round alive. No other first round matchup is that clearly lopsided. Dom Luszczyszyn over at The Athletic (subscription required) has a worse outcome predicted for the Blues with only a 12% success rate. The one area where he gives the Blues an edge? Goaltending. The only two Blues players he gives credit to as far as wild cards to swing the series to the Blues’ favor? Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron.

Uhoh.

The forward, who is the Blues’ leading scorer this season, will have to test negative twice during a 24 hour period to get off of the list. It doesn’t look like the NHL is considering any postponement or rescheduling of games due to COVID-19.

If Perron is not cleared by Monday, the Blues are going to have to soldier on without one of their biggest contributors. Klim Kostin may be getting an earlier look in the top six than anyone expected. Or, you know, Zach Sanford might be back up there. Six of one...

Speaking of top lines, Colorado’s of Nathan McKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog are one of the best in the NHL and are a huge reason why Colorado is favored over the Blues’ this round. It’s hard to find anyone on St. Louis who can compare with their speed and scoring prowess, which is why the Blues will have to compete another way. When they’ve applied sustained physical pressure to Colorado’s top players, it works. Slow them down and, much like the Blues did against San Jose in 2019, make life uncomfortable by legally hitting them every chance that you get. Get them to cough up the puck, don’t allow a clear path to the net, and if anyone is parked near or around Jordan Binnington, get them the hell out of the way. The Avalanche may have outscored the Blues 26-21 during the regular season, but St. Louis handled the Avs 15-13 at even strength. Perhaps the moral of that story is that the Blues should limit the Avalanche’s power play time.

The Blues can beat this Avalanche team, and beat them well - their 3-5-0 record is more indicative of their mid-season struggle with injury than actual quality of play (I will consider that 8-0 drubbing in game two an example of an aberration than actual ability). Many predictions for this series are taking into consideration a team that is not the one currently being iced.

Or the team who should be iced, Perron pending.

This is the first time in 20 years that the two teams have met in the playoffs, and the NHL, let alone the makeup of each squad, has changed immeasurably. One thing that hasn’t changed about the Blues is their reputation as being a hard working, physical team, and captain O’Reilly is hoping to rely on that.

“When we’re skating and we’re physical, I think we give [Colorado] a lot of issues,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “Whether that’s forecheck or defending, when we play our heavy game and commit to it and put pucks in and don’t feed their rush, we make it tough on them and find ways to beat them. That’s what we’ve got to do. That’s got to be our focus.”

It’s going to be difficult for the Blues to stop a team with nine 30 point players, and one that has a five-game winning streak on its side going into the playoffs. As we all know, the regular season is done, and anything can happen in the postseason. Stranger things have happened than the Blues overachieving expectations.