Underdog St. Louis Hopes to Ditch Blues
The good news is that the St. Louis Blues won their first playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup Championship in 2019. The bad news is that St. Louis gets to face an offensively gifted Colorado Avalanche squad that has had some time to get healthier after a first-round sweep of Nashville.
The teams have met in the playoffs twice and it has not gone well for the Blues. St. Louis was swept out of the playoffs by Colorado last year and fell in five games to Colorado in the 2001 conference finals.
Colorado won the last two games of that 2001 series in overtime. There were no such issues in 2021 with the Avalanche outscoring the Blues 20-7.
It is no wonder that the Blues vs Avalanche oddsmakers have Colorado as the overwhelming choice at -400.
According to the Las Vegas odds, Colorado (+200) has the best odds to win the Stanley Cup while St. Louis comes in at +1500.
Blues vs Avalanche Series Information
- Game: Blues (49-22-11 in the regular season); Avalanche (56-19-7)
- Location: Ball Arena (for Games 1, 2, 5 and 7) Enterprise Center (for Games 3, 4 and 6).
- Day/Time: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET (for Game 1)
- Television: First four games will be on TNT.
How They Got Here
The Nashville Predators weren’t given much of a chance to knock out the Western Conferences’ top-seeded Colorado Avalanche even when healthy. When the Predators lost goalie Juuse Saros late in the regular season, the outcome of the first-round series was a foregone conclusion.
Colorado outscored St. Louis 21-9. The Avalanche scored five times in the first period of the opener and had nine of the 12 goals scored in the first period in the series. Nashville did force Colorado into overtime in game two on the strength of a brilliant effort from goalie Connor Ingram who stopped 49 straight shots on goal.
The St. Louis-Minnesota series was significantly more competitive. The Blues and Wild fought it out for second place in the Central Division behind Colorado, all season long. Minnesota finished four points ahead of St. Louis to second the home-ice advantage in the first-round series. Each of the games in the series ended up being decided by at least three goals with the Blues winning twice on the road to win the series in six games.
The NHL betting lines favored St. Louis to wrap things up in the sixth game and the Blues used three second-period goals and 25 saves from Jordan Binnington to do just that.
Tale of the Tape
Colorado has the best power play in the playoffs, converting 44 percent of the time with the man advantage. St. Louis scored on 31 percent of its power-play opportunities which ranks fourth among the 16 playoff teams.
Colorado’s dominance when on the power play is one of the reasons the Blues vs Avalanche series odds favor Colorado.
The Blues’ eight power-play goals are the most in the playoffs. Four of them were scored by Ryan O’Reilly. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon had three power-play goals in four games.
St. Louis had to kill off 24 penalties in six games compared to 13 in four games for the Avalanche. The St. Louis-Minnesota series wasn’t the most physical series. The Blues and Wild finished 15th and 16th in hits per 60 minutes among the 16 playoff teams.
Goaltending Questions Abound Heading into Series
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are usually good for creating unlikely stars. Few players had a more improbable rise to playoff stardom than St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington who led the Blues to the 2019 NHL title. Ville Husso took over the starting goaltending duties for the Blues when Binnington had his struggles.
Binnington posted a career-worst 3.13 (goals-against average) in the regular season. Binnington will be tested early and often as the Blues vs Avalanche series odds aren’t expected to be a long series. The top odds have Colorado winning the series in five games.
Binnington allowed 35 goals in nine postseason games in the previous two seasons. He will need to regain the form he showed during the 2018-19 when he had a GAA of 1.89 during the regular season and followed that up with a 2.46 mark in the postseason as he picked up the 16 wins to lead St. Louis to the NHL title. Binnington stopped 83 of 88 shots after getting the call in the Minnesota series.
For Colorado, the issue is Darcy Kuemper’s eye. It was swollen shut after he took a stick to his face during the Nashville series. Kuemper didn’t return in the series after suffering the injury, however, he said he is good to go for the series against St. Louis.
Magical Makar Leading the Avalanche’s Charge
Seven of Colorado’s top eight scorers in a four-game sweep against Nashville were first-round draft picks including former No. 1 overall picks Nathan MacKinnon and Erik Johnson. No player shined more than defenseman Cale Makar, the fourth-overall pick in 2017.
Makar had three goals (including the overtime winner in Game 2) and seven assists in the four games. Makar assisted on the final two goals of the series as Colorado withstood a valiant Game 4 challenge from Nashville.
Makar’s most impressive statistic was that he didn’t have a giveaway even though he led Colorado with an average of 25:46 minutes per game in the series and had the puck on his stick more than any other player in the series. Many of the Colorado Avalanche highlights begin and end with the puck on Makar’s stick.
Makar’s playoff success is no fluke. He led all NHL defensemen with 28 goals during the regular season. The only Colorado player with a better defensive rating than Makar’s +48 during the regular season, was his defensive partner Devon Toews.
Blues vs Avalanche Head-to-Head
Colorado has won six of the last seven games against St. Louis including a four-game sweep in the 2021 playoffs. In three regular-season matchups, Colorado had 12 goals while St. Louis finished with 11.
With all the offensive stars on the Colorado roster, it was J.T. Compher who led the way with three goals and three assists in three games against the Blues.
Jordan Kyrou assisted on six of the 11 St. Louis goals against Colorado while Ryan O’Reily led the way with three goals, all coming at even strength.
A total of 42 goals were scored in the last six games between the teams with each of the last four games having either seven or eight combined goals.
Since the start of 2020, Colorado is 8-2 at home against St. Louis with the Avalanche outscoring the Blues 45-28 in those contests.
Blues vs Avalanche Betting Analysis
Just a piece of advice to St. Louis, do not start the series like Nashville did. Allowing Colorado to score five goals in the first period of the opening game is a certified way to have a rather short series against the high-powered Avalanche.
It remains to be seen how Colorado’s No. 1 goalie Darcy Kuemper tracks the puck early in the series. He has been sidelined since taking a stick to his face in the Nashville series resulting in swelling around his eye. Kuemper and forward Andrew Cogliano are questionable for the opener, but expect both to be in there.
St. Louis also has injury concerns as defensemen Torey Krug and Marco Scandella are dealing with lower-body injuries. Krug missed the last four games of the Minnesota series while Scandella was out for the final three games in the series.
Although St. Louis was competitive with Colorado during the regular season, it is difficult to pick against Colorado as the series opens in Denver.Follow us on Twitter