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St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 27-20-9, 63 points

4th in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado

Additions: F Pavel Buchnevich (acquired from NYR), F Matthew Peca, F Brandon Saad, F Nathan Todd, D Tommy Cross, D Calle Rosén, G Charlie Lindgren

Subtractions: F Sammy Blais (traded to NYR), F Mike Hoffman (signed with MTL), F Curtis McKenzie (signed with Texas Stars, AHL), F Jaden Schwartz (signed with SEA), F Alexander Steen (retired), D Vince Dunn (expansion, SEA), D Carl Gunnarsson (retired), D Petteri Lindbohm (KHL)

Still Unsigned: F Robert Thomas (RFA), G Jon Gillies

Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Tyler Bozak, F Dakota Joshua, F Tanner Kaspick, F Jordan Kyrou, F Zach Sanford, F Nolan Stevens, F Nathan Walker

Offseason Analysis: Winning the Cup comes with a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to win it (especially as the Blues had never won prior to 2019, since their inception in 1967) and it’s a curse because it sets an expectation for success.

St. Louis might have had a short window to win their second Cup in franchise history.

After being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their face of the franchise before Ryan O’Reilly’s arrival, Vladimir Tarasenko, requested a trade.

Blues General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has yet to fulfill that request and has indicated that he’s in no rush to do so– after all, he’s in control of the cards at hand and like when Avs General Manager, Joe Sakic, ultimately traded Matt Duchene, Armstrong can command a steep price for Tarasenko if he’s patient enough.

Injuries have limited Tarasenko to 34 games in the last two seasons, including 3-7–10 totals in 10 games in 2019-20 and 4-10–14 totals in 24 games in 2020-21.

From 2014-15 through the 2018-19 season Tarasenko recorded five consecutive seasons with at least 65 points– including his career-high 75 points in 82 games in 2016-17, as well as a 40-goal season in 80 games in 2015-16.

Tarasenko’s situation isn’t the only concern in St. Louis, however, as the depth of the Blues that made them Cup contenders turned champions in 2019, has withered away– leaving Armstrong with the difficult task of overhauling both the top-six forward group and experimenting with the right mixture of replacement players.

Jake Allen, Sammy Blais, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarsson, Patrick Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen have all left one way or another since winning the Cup in St. Louis.

In their place, guys like Ivan Barbashev, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou and Mackenzie MacEachern have climbed the development ladder, while Torey Krug, Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella were acquired by other means.

Some will rise and exceed expectations. Others will be gifted contracts through their prime– though their use may be time limited and the chemistry pulled apart.

At the very least, Barbashev and Kyrou’s extensions this summer lead the youth movement for the Blues in an ever-changing league.

Meanwhile, the introduction of Brandon Saad on a five-year deal worth $4.500 million per season– only a smidge more than what Mike Hoffman was making on a one-year contract that wasn’t renewed– and Pavel Buchnevich via trade and subsequent four-year, $23.200 million extension has solidified St. Louis’ top-six forward group for the foreseeable future.

Saad spent last season with the Avalanche and had 15-9–24 totals in 44 regular season games before coming up clutch in the postseason– albeit at times the only goal scorer, it seemed, for Colorado– with 7-1–8 totals in 10 games.

At 28-years-old, the Blues should have him for what’s left of his prime in what’s been a respectable career thus far with 371 points (184 goals, 187 assists) in 632 career games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with Chicago, winning two Stanley Cup rings with the organization in 2013 and 2015, then spending time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago again and Colorado.

Armstrong acquired Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick on July 23rd in the only trade that involved roster players for St. Louis this offseason.

Blais leaves the Blues after breaking into the league in the 2017-18 season and amassing 17-18–35 totals in 119 games with St. Louis, including 8-7–15 totals in 36 games last season.

Buchnevich joins the Blues riding a productive season with the Rangers– notching 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games in 2020-21, as well as 79-116–195 totals in 301 career games with New York since making his league debut in the 2016-17 season.

After nine loyal seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Bozak won the Cup in his first season with St. Louis in 2018-19.

Through three seasons with the Blues, Bozak’s amassed 31-53–84 totals in 170 games– despite injuries that kept him to 31 games out of the 56-game schedule in 2020-21.

At 35-years-old and in love with the St. Louis uniform, Bozak is ready to be part of the transitional plans from 2019 Stanley Cup champions to getting back to Cup contention for the Blues– signing a one-year extension worth $750,000 against the cap.

He’ll either be back to full health as a low-risk, high-reward gamble to hang onto or he’ll be trade bait for another team looking to add a touch of experience at the deadline.

It might have been a blessing in disguise for the Blues to have kept Bozak and lost Schwartz this offseason.

Schwartz’s five-year contract worth $5.500 million per season with the Seattle Kraken contains a no-movement clause in the first three seasons for a player that’s suffered from a recent decline in production at 29-years-old.

Contrasted with Phillip Danault’s two-way style that ultimately went to the Los Angeles Kings with an additional sixth-year in his contract– albeit their similar scoring totals– the Blues were never going to be able to afford to keep Schwartz and account for patching a couple of holes at the same time.

After skyrocketing to the top of the league standings and winning the Cup in 2019, Jordan Binnington’s looking to reinvent himself as a surefire starter in the National Hockey League.

On the wings of a six-year extension worth $6.000 million per season, he better prove it.

A 30-13-7 record in 50 games played with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts in that span in 2019-20, was followed by an 18-14-8 record in 42 games played with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

That doesn’t exactly scream long-term option in net if it worsens.

In five postseason games in 2020, Binnington went 0-5 and had a 4.72 goals-against average, as well as an .851 save percentage.

In 2021, he went 0-4 with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. While that is better than his 2020 performance, it also means that the two postseason wins since winning the Cup in 2019, were recorded by a goaltender not named “Binnington” (they were, in fact, recorded by current Montréal Canadiens backup and former Blues netminder, Jake Allen).

If St. Louis can’t get things tamed in the crease, then they might have even more issues to resolve than already planned.

Offseason Grade: C

While Saad and Buchnevich are quality pickups for the Blues, most teams in playoff contention make one or two moves and otherwise stand pat.

St. Louis got an upgrade over Hoffman’s departure, sure, but they are limited in spending power with about $782,000 left in cap space and burdened by lengthy contracts that haven’t really gone one way or another yet.

Armstrong knows how to build a team up over a period of time, but hasn’t encountered what it means to sustain that success over the years in the postseason, as well as through the course of developing a system to supplement it while talent comes and goes in the ebbs and flows of the salary cap era.

Whereas the Blues once mastered building the foundation for a team that could contend for a decade or more, it seems as though there are cracks starting to form and if they’re not careful, serious structural damage could affect their core.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Golden Knights rally late for Game 3 victory in front of capacity crowd

A pair of goals in 45 seconds were enough to tie the game and take the lead in the third period as the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2, in front of a full capacity crowd at T-Mobile Arena in Game 3 of their 2021 Second Round series on Friday.

17,504 fans were in attendance in the first full capacity crowd since the ongoing pandemic was declared in March 2020, as the Golden Knights cut Colorado’s series lead to 2-1.

Marc-Andre Fleury (5-4, 1.88 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in nine games played) made 18 saves on 20 shots against in the win for Vegas.

Avalanche goaltender, Philipp Grubauer (6-1, 1.86 goals-against average, .941 save percentage in seven games played), stopped 40 out of 43 shots faced in the loss.

Once more, Logan Thompson served as Fleury’s backup in Game 3 as he did for Game 2 with Robin Lehner (undisclosed) out of the lineup.

Nazem Kadri and Ryan Reaves continued to serve their own individual suspensions on Friday– with Reaves completing his two-game suspension in Game 3 (so he’ll be back for the Golden Knights in Game 4).

Kadri has three games remaining in his suspension for a blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in Game 2 of the First Round.

Neither team managed to score a goal in the opening frame as Colorado presented Vegas with the first two power plays of the night.

First, Gabriel Landeskog cut a rut to the penalty box for hooking Max Pacioretty at 7:13 of the first period, then late in the opening frame, Patrik Nemeth was penalized for interference at 17:54.

The Golden Knights were unsuccessful on the power play in each case.

Entering the first intermission, the score still read, 0-0, despite Vegas outshooting the Avalanche, 14-3.

The Golden Knights also held the advantage in takeaways (4-3), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (67-33), while the Avs led in blocked shots (8-5) and hits (21-19).

Vegas was 0/2 on the power play, while Colorado had yet to see any action on the skater advantage.

William Karlsson (3) pounced on a rebound with a backhand tap-in around Grubauer’s pad to give the Golden Knights a, 1-0, lead at 4:38 of the second period.

Alex Pietrangelo (4) and Alec Martinez (1) tallied the assists on the game’s first goal early in the middle frame, but Vegas didn’t hold onto the lead for long.

Almost 90 seconds after Karlsson put his team on the scoreboard first, Carl Soderberg (1) buried a rebound off of Fleury’s glove and into the twine– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2) had the initial shot and recorded the primary assist, while Kiefer Sherwood (1) was credited with the secondary helper as Soderberg’s goal evened things up at 6:07 of the second period.

Late in the period, Shea Theodore sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction at 14:41.

The Avs were not successful on the ensuing skater advantage.

With about 1:50 remaining in the second period, Pacioretty had a breakaway that Grubauer denied– keeping the game even at, 1-1, as the second intermission got underway shortly thereafter.

Through 40 minutes of action at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights and Avalanche were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard despite Vegas leading in shots on goal, 24-12, including a, 10-9, advantage in the second period alone.

Colorado held the advantage in blocked shots (16-12) and hits (38-37), while Vegas led in giveaways (8-6) and faceoff win% (65-35). Both teams had nine takeaways each heading into the final frame.

The Avs were 0/1 and the Golden Knights were 0/2 on the power play after two periods.

Nicolas Roy hooked Sherwood early at 4:56 of the third period and the Avalanche made quick work of the ensuing power play.

Colorado won the ensuing attacking zone faceoff and worked the puck around the zone before Mikko Rantanen (4) blasted a one-timer off of Fleury’s glove and into the back of the net while Joonas Donskoi served as a screen in front of the crease.

Cale Makar (7) and Landeskog (8) had the assists on Rantanen’s power-play goal as the Avs took their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 5:04 of the third period.

Rantanen’s goal extended his postseason point streak to 17 games dating back to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Less than a minute later, Zach Whitecloud lost his own footing– perhaps with the ever so slight nudge or push from Landeskog– and crashed hard in the corner, clutching his right arm as he skated off the ice on his own power.

Late in the third, Jonathan Marchessault (2) stuck with a broken play, following up on his own mishandling before banking the puck off of Grubauer and into the net from behind the goal line.

Reilly Smith (3) and Nicolas Hague (1) notched the assists on Marchessault’s goal as the Golden Knights tied the game, 2-2, at 14:42.

Less than a minute later, Vegas capitalized on the momentum swing with their second goal in 45 seconds as Nick Holden sent a shot from the point that Pacioretty (2) deflected under Grubauer to put the Golden Knights back into the lead, 3-2, at 15:27 of the third period.

Holden (5) and Mark Stone (2) had the assists on Pacioretty’s deflection goal, which wound up becoming the game-winning goal as neither team could add to the scoreboard total as time winded down to the final horn.

Colorado couldn’t tie the game with Grubauer pulled for an extra attacker with 1:53 remaining, nor could they draw up the right plan to force overtime when Avalanche head coach, Jared Bednar, used his timeout with 44.1 seconds left on the clock.

At the final horn, Vegas had won, 3-2, and cut into Colorado’s series lead.

The Golden Knights wrapped up Friday’s effort leading in shots on goal, 43-20, including a, 19-8, advantage in the third period alone.

Vegas also led in givewaways (14-7), while Colorado finished the game leading in blocked shots (22-19).

The two clubs split hits, 50-50, and faceoff win%, 50-50, as well, while the Avs went 1/2 on the power play and the Golden Knights finished 0/2 on the skater advantage in Game 3.

The Avalanche lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 in Vegas on Sunday. Puck drop at T-Mobile Arena is scheduled for a little after 8:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for game coverage, while fans in Canada can choose from SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Rantanen lifts Avs over Golden Knights, 3-2, in OT

Mikko Rantanen drew a penalty less than a minute into the extra frame before scoring on the ensuing power play to give the Colorado Avalanche a, 3-2, win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of their 2021 Second Round matchup at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

Philipp Grubauer (6-0, 1.66 goals-against average, .943 save percentage in six games played) made 39 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Avs while becoming just the 10th goaltender in National Hockey League history to earn 10 consecutive postseason victories.

In addition, the Avalanche took command of a 2-0 series lead over the Golden Knights in light of Wednesday night’s win.

Meanwhile, Vegas netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury (4-4, 1.86 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in eight games played), stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the loss.

With the start in Game 2, Fleury joined Patrick Roy as the only goaltenders in league history to face 20 different postseason opponents.

Logan Thompson suited up as Vegas’ backup, while Robin Lehner (undisclosed) was given the night off and did not dress– not even for warmup.

Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri continued to serve his eight-game suspension for his blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in Game 2 of Colorado’s First Round matchup with St. Louis.

Kadri has four games remaining in his suspension.

Ryan Reaves was out of the lineup for the Golden Knights– serving the first half of his two-game suspension for roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct against Ryan Graves in Game 1 against the Avs.

Brandon Saad (5) kicked off the night’s scoring after fanning on a shot that ended up trickling over the goal line through Fleury’s five-hole to give Colorado a, 1-0, lead early in the opening frame.

Samuel Girard (4) and Graves (5) notched the assists on Saad’s goal at 3:39 of the first period as No. 20 in burgundy and blue extended his goal scoring streak to five games.

Moments later, Nicolas Hague cut a rut to the penalty box for holding at 6:13, presenting the game’s first power play to the Avalanche, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly after killing off Hague’s minor, Vegas exchanged their penalty kill unit for their power play unit as Alex Newhook was assessed a holding minor at 8:36 of the first period.

It didn’t take the Golden Knights long to score on the power play as Alec Martinez (2) sent a one-timer past Grubauer’s glove side— tying the game, 1-1, at 9:32.

Max Pacioretty (2) and Shea Theodore (3) had the assists on Martinez’s power-play goal as Vegas looked much more competitive than they had been in Game 1.

Pacioretty cut a rut to the box for holding at 11:45, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Minutes later, Jonathan Marchessault slashed Nathan MacKinnon and took a seat in the sin bin at 15:38 of the first period as a result.

The Avs nearly used up the entire length of the ensuing skater advantage, but pulled ahead, 2-1, on a power-play goal from Tyson Jost (2) at 17:08.

Girard (5) and Devon Toews (4) notched the assists on Jost’s tally.

The Avalanche got another chance on the power play at 17:50 when Theodore cleared the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game infraction, but Colorado struggled to get anything else on the scoreboard as the advantage expired and— shortly thereafter— the first period itself.

After 20 minutes of action at Ball Arena on Wednesday, the Avs were in command, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 11-9, in shots on goal.

Vegas led in blocked shots (12-10), giveaways (1-0), hits (9-7) and faceoff win percentage (74-26), while both teams amassed one takeaway each.

The Golden Knights were 1/1 on the power play, while Colorado was 1/4 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Midway through the middle frame, Reilly Smith (2) broke through Girard and Graves after Vegas forced a turnover before deking and elevating a backhand shot over Grubauer’s glove to tie the game, 2-2.

Marchessault (2) and Theodore (4) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal for the Golden Knights at 10:28 of the second period.

About a few minutes later, Patrik Nemeth caught Marchessault with a slash at 13:05, but Vegas was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play.

The score was tied, 2-2, heading into the second intermission, with the Golden Knights leading in shots on goal, 25-17, including an impressive, 16-6, advantage in the second period alone.

Vegas managed to dominate in blocked shots (18-7), takeaways (4-2), hits (19-18) and faceoff win% (63-38), while Colorado led in giveaways (5-1) after two periods.

The Golden Knights were 1/2 and the Avs were 1/4 on the power play through 40 minutes of play.

Alex Tuch slashed MacKinnon midway through the final frame of regulation, but the Avalanche were powerless on the power play at 10:08 of the third period.

Toews tripped Alex Pietrangelo at 16:39, but Vegas couldn’t get another one last Grubauer as their skater advantage came and went late in the period— despite using their timeout with 3:21 remaining to draw up a potentially game-winning play.

At the horn, the Avalanche and Golden Knights were heading for overtime in Denver as Wednesday night drifted into Thursday morning on the East Coast.

Vegas continued to lead in shots on goal, 40-23, through 60 minutes, including a, 15-6, advantage in the third period alone.

Meanwhile, Colorado led in giveaways (6-3) and hits (22-21) after three periods and the Golden Knights held the advantage in blocked shots (27-17) and faceoff win% (58-42).

Both teams managed to have five takeaways aside heading into the extra frame.

Vegas was 1/3 and Colorado was 1/5 on the power play after regulation.

44 seconds into overtime, Smith slashed Rantanen with a soft one-handed chop that might otherwise be seen as a “soft” call, depending on your vantage point as a fan.

Nevertheless, Colorado went on the power play less than a minute into overtime.

A little more than a minute later, after working the puck around the attacking zone and ringing the iron, Cale Makar sent the puck to MacKinnon for a spin move to throw off William Karlsson from making a defensive play in his own zone.

The Avalanche phenom then sent the puck across the slot to Rantanen (3) for the catch and release past Fleury’s short side— over the left shoulder of the Golden Knights goaltender and into the twine— to secure the victory for Colorado.

MacKinnon (5) and Makar (6) had the assists on Rantanen’s game-winning power-play goal in overtime at 2:07 of the extra frame.

The goal lifted Colorado over Vegas, 3-2, and marked the second career overtime winner for Rantanen in the playoffs, as well as his fourth career postseason game-winning goal.

Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-25, despite trailing Colorado, 2-1, in overtime alone.

The Golden Knights also exited Ball Arena with the advantage in blocked shots (28-17) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Avs led in giveaways (8-3) and hits (22-21).

Vegas went 1/3, while Colorado went 2/6 on the power play in Game 2.

The Avalanche improved to 6-0 in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and matched a franchise record for the longest winning streak at any point in the postseason, a club record previously set by the 1987 Québec Nordiques.

The Avs also became the third Presidents’ Trophy winner to start the postseason at least 6-0, joining the 1994 New York Rangers and 1999 Dallas Stars in doing so.

The Rangers went 7-0 to begin their quest for the Cup in 1994, while the Stars went 6-0 en route to winning their first Stanley Cup ring in 1999.

Colorado is in good company if they are to continue the trend, leading their Second Round series 2-0 heading into Vegas for Game 3 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.

Viewers in the United States can catch the game on NBCSN, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS with puck drop expected a little after 10 p.m. ET.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Avalanche pile on Golden Knights, 7-1, in Game 1

A little bit of everything in both the good and bad sense happened in Sunday night’s, 7-1, victory at Ball Arena for the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of their Second Round series with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Colorado’s first line scored five goals, Cale Makar (one goal, three assists) had a four-point night and Philipp Grubauer (5-0, 1.60 goals-against average, .941 save percentage in five games played) made 24 saves on 25 shots against in the win.

The Avalanche were battered, but every player was able to make their way back to the game by the end of the night.

Vegas opted to start Robin Lehner (0-1, 7.00 goals-against average, .811 save percentage in one game played) over Marc-Andre Fleury with two days off in between Games 1 and 2 from Sunday to Wednesday– giving Fleury more time to rest between a Game 7 victory against the Minnesota Wild and the now ongoing Second Round.

Lehner, meanwhile, stopped 30 out of 37 shots faced in the loss.

The Golden Knights also wracked up penalty minutes, including a nine-minute power play for the Avalanche in the third period.

We’ll get there. Keep reading.

Nazem Kadri remains suspended for the Avalanche with five games remaining in his eight-game suspension for a blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, back in Game 2 of the First Round.

There may be another suspension before Colorado is even involved in another Game 2 this postseason– only this time around, it might not be one of their players on the receiving end.

Mikko Rantanen (2) beat Lehner with a backhand shot off the post and in on the glove side to give the Avalanche a, 1-0, lead at 4:55 of the first period.

Devon Toews (3) and Makar (3) tallied the assists on the night’s first goal.

Moments later, Brandon Saad caught Zach Whitecloud with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 7:26, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Instead, Gabriel Landeskog (3) scored on a catch and release goal from the low slot over Lehner’s blocker side to make it, 2-0, Colorado at 10:13 of the first period.

Makar (4) and Samuel Girard (3) had the assists on Landeskog’s goal as the Avs extended their lead to two-goals.

Heading into the first intermission, Colorado led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-8, in shots on goal.

Vegas dominated in just about everything else, leading in blocked shots (5-4), giveaways (2-1) and hits (12-9), while the Avalanche led in faceoff win percentage (56-44).

Both teams had a pair of takeaways after one period, while only the Golden Knights had seen time on the skater advantage and were 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

Valeri Nichushkin fanned on a shot, then dished the puck to Saad (4) for a goal underneath Lehner’s blocker to give Colorado a, 3-0, lead at 1:04 of the second period.

Nichushkin (2) and Makar (5) tallied the assists on Saad’s goal.

A few minutes later, Nathan MacKinnon (7) sent a catch and release shot through Lehner’s five-hole to make it, 4-0, for the Avalanche at 4:03, while Ryan Graves (4) had the only assist on the tally.

Shortly thereafter, Graves hit Mattias Janmark up high, causing Janmark to whack the back of his head off the glass from the force of the check and take a few minutes to get up and off the ice on his own power.

Graves received a two-minute minor for interference on the late hit, while Tyson Jost and Nicolas Roy picked up matching roughing minors at 8:26 of the second period.

The Golden Knights couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing 5-on-4 advantage and wound up taking the next penalty at 10:49, as William Carrier received a roughing minor.

Almost as soon as Carrier was released, he went right back to the sin bin for roughing while trying to get back at Graves at 13:15.

This time, however, Colorado made the Golden Knights pay on the scoreboard as Landeskog (4) notched his second goal of the night on a doorstep redirection to make it, 5-0, for the Avalanche.

Rantanen (7) and MacKinnon (4) had the assists on Landeskog’s power-play goal at 14:23 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, though, Vegas ended Grubauer’s bid for a shutout as William Karlsson (2) knocked down Girard to clear some space for his own doorstep redirection goal– low on the far side.

Max Pacioretty (1) and Jonathan Marchessault (1) had the assists as Vegas trailed, 5-1, at 14:59.

Meanwhile, Andre Burakovsky took a high hit behind the play and was left with a cut on his face and bleeding.

If ever there was a moment for on-ice officials to read the temperature of the game and be proactive, well, it was soon to come.

Almost two minutes later, MacKinnon (8) created his own breakaway with his incredible speed, utilized his stickhandling skills and elevated a shot over the glove side to give Colorado another five-goal lead, 6-1, at 17:05 of the second period.

Joonas Donskoi (2) and Landeskog (7) had the assists on MacKinnon’s cheat code goal as the clock ticked down on the middle frame.

Through 40 minutes of action at Ball Arena on Sunday night, the Avs led, 6-1, on the scoreboard and, 27-17, in shots on goal, including a, 13-9, advantage in the second period alone.

Vegas led in blocked shots (8-6), giveaways (5-2), hits (17-15) and faceoff win% (54-46), while both teams had four takeaways each.

The Golden Knights were 0/2 on the power play, while the Avalanche were 1/2 on the skater advantage after two periods.

Early in the final frame, Pacioretty caught Girard up high with what looked like a cross check at first.

A crowd gathered and a scrum ensued while Girard took a moment to get off the ice, but upon official review, Pacioretty’s double minor for cross checking was rescinded.

The Golden Knights winger hadn’t actually made contact with the Avalanche defender– with his stick in an illegal manner, at least.

Meanwhile, Pacioretty, Nicolas Hague, J.T. Compher and Burakovsky all received roughing minors of their own volition at 3:47 of the third period.

Each infraction canceled another as they were all deemed “matching minors”, thus rendering the game to remain at full strength while the penalties were being served.

Then, moments later, it happened.

After a Grubauer covered the puck and got a whistle, Ryan Reaves delivered a quick shot to the head of the Colorado netminder.

Whether it was a sucker punch or a cross check, it did not matter to Grubauer, who returned with a quick chop at Reaves’ leg while Graves and other skaters on the ice crowded around Reaves and a scrum developed.

Reaves got a couple jabs at Graves before tugging him to the ice, whereupon Reaves had the high ground in that he was literally on top of Graves’ head– pushing down on the Avalanche defender’s helmet and driving his head into the ice.

Graves ended up laying motionless for a minute or two while an on-ice official worked to get Reaves off of the defenseless player as the two teams became entangled with another.

Reaves was assessed two roughing minor penalties, an attempt to injure minor infraction, as well as a match penalty for his actions against Graves at 8:04 of the third period.

The match penalty immediate considers Reaves to be suspended until a decision is made by the league commissioner, Gary Bettman, himself.

To repeat, Reaves is not available to suit up in Game 2 for the Golden Knights until and unless Bettman intervenes, reviews the reason for the match penalty and makes an assessment as to whether enough was done in ending Reaves’ night early on Sunday or whether Reaves should face further discipline for his actions in Game 1.

Meanwhile, Alex Pietrangelo, Whitecloud, Nichushkin and Saad all received ten-minute misconducts at 8:04 of the third period.

As a result of Reaves’ minors and major penalty, Colorado ended up with a rare nine-minute power play.

Despite being shorthanded for almost half of a period, Vegas’ penalty kill did pretty well until Makar (2) buried a one-timer from the point over Lehner’s glove and just under the bar while Compher acted as a screen in the slot.

Jost (2) and Burakovsky (2) had the assists on Makar’s power-play goal as the Avalanche took a, 7-1, lead at 15:49 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Avs had won, 7-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 37-25.

Colorado held the advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone, 10-8, while wrapping up Sunday night’s action leading in blocked shots (11-10).

Vegas finished Game 1 leading in giveaways (7-3), hits (26-17) and faceoff win% (57-43).

The Golden Knights went 0/2, while the Avalanche went 2/5 on the power play on Sunday.

The Avs take a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 on Wednesday night. Puck drop in Denver is set for 10 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Avs beat Blues, 5-1, and take a strong 3-0 series lead on the road

The Colorado Avalanche are one win away from sweeping the St. Louis Blues and advancing to the 2021 Second Round after winning, 5-1, in Game 3 at Enterprise Center on the road Friday night.

Philipp Grubauer (3-0, 1.67 goals-against average, .944 save percentage in three games played) turned aside 31 out of 32 shots faced in the win for Colorado.

St. Louis netminder, Jordan Binnington (0-3, 4.11 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in three games played), made 21 saves on 25 shots against in the loss.

David Perron (COVID protocol) remained out of the lineup for the Blues, while Mitch Reinke and Steven Santini made their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts for St. Louis in Game 3.

Meanwhile, Colorado forward, Nazem Kadri, was given an eight-game suspension for his blindside hit on Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in Game 2 shortly after puck drop, as the NHL Department of Player Safety announced late Friday night.

Carl Soderberg entered the lineup for the Avalanche, as Kadri was already removed from Jared Bednar’s plans heading into Game 3.

Brayden Schenn was penalized for interference at 6:49 of the first period and presented the game’s first skater advantage to the Avalanche as a result.

Colorado’s ensuing power play didn’t go well and came to an end before Schenn’s minor was fully served as Samuel Girard tripped up Ivan Barbashev at 8:41 of the opening frame.

After eight seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Blues had an abbreviated power play.

St. Louis was powerless on the resulting skater advantage.

Late in the period, Barbashev got tangled up with Ryan Graves and the two skaters each received roughing minors at 19:49.

The score was still tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission with St. Louis outshooting Colorado, 9-5, and both clubs slated to begin the middle frame at 4-on-4 for less than two minutes.

The Blues held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3) and hits (21-7), while the Avalanche led in giveaways (5-2) and faceoff win percentage (54-46) after one period.

Both teams had one takeaway each and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle period.

As Graves and Barbashev exited the box, a wayward pass made its way to Colorado’s attacking zone where Graves met Binnington as the Blues goaltender played aggressive.

Graves (1) sent the rubber biscuit off of Binnington’s paddle and into the empty twine behind the St. Louis goalie for an unassisted goal at 1:57 of the second period.

Just like that, Colorado led, 1-0.

Midway through the second period, Sammy Blais was penalized for interference at 9:53.

Though the Avs didn’t score on the ensuing power play, they did take advantage of the vulnerable minute after special teams action– pouncing on a rebound and extending their lead to two-goals as Alex Newhook (1) scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Graves (2) and Valeri Nichushkin (1) tallied the assists on Newhook’s goal as the Avalanche pulled ahead, 2-0, at 12:37 of the second period.

Minutes later, Tyson Jost (1) notched his first of the postseason after St. Louis sustained pressure in the attacking zone before Colorado turned things around with a fast breakout prior to Gabriel Landeskog giving Jost the puck on a rush.

Jost scored on his own rebound from almost at the goal line while Landeskog skated near Binnington– never coming in contact with the goaltender, but nevertheless, Blues head coach, Craig Berube, challenged the call on the ice.

Video review confirmed that Landeskog never made contact with the goaltender and thus, Landeskog (5) and Girard (2) each had an assist on Jost’s goal and the Blue Notes received a bench minor for delay of game, having lost the coach’s challenge at 16:08.

Colorado had a, 3-0, lead as Vladimir Tarasenko served Berube’s blunder.

While digging the puck out of his own zone, Cale Makar, turned the vulcanized piece of rubber over to Ryan O’Reilly, whereby the Blues captain dished it back to Tyler Bozak (1) as Bozak was entering the zone for a one-timer goal that cut Colorado’s lead to two-goals.

O’Reilly (1) and Colton Parayko (1) had the assists on Bozak’s shorthanded goal as the Blues trailed the Avs, 3-1, at 16:17.

Heading into the second intermission, the Avalanche led, 3-1, on the scoreboard despite St. Louis leading in shots on goal, 26-17, including a, 17-12, advantage for the Blue Notes in the second period alone.

Colorado led in blocked shots (9-7), but St. Louis dominated in just about everything else including takeaways (2-1), giveaways (8-6) and hits (34-14).

Both teams had split faceoff win%, 50-50, while the Blues were 0/1 and the Avalanche were 0/3 on the power play entering the final frame.

Schenn hooked Nathan MacKinnon to kickoff the third period at 3:13, presenting Colorado with another power play that went untouched.

Midway through the third, MacKinnon cut a rut to the box for interference at 10:06, but St. Louis was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play.

A few minutes later, Brandon Saad (2) snuck behind Schenn into the slot, received a pass from Andre Burakovsky and buried the puck in the net on a backhand shot.

Burakovsky (1) and Soderberg (1) recorded the assists as Saad’s goal put Colorado ahead, 4-1, at 13:42 of the third period.

Landeskog was guilty of holding at 17:36, but the Avs’ penalty kill stood tall and didn’t budge in the face of St. Louis’ power play units.

With about one minute left in the game, Berube pulled Binnington for an extra attacker, but his plans to rally a comeback were quickly ignored as J.T. Compher (1) delivered the final blow.

Compher sent a billiard shot off the boards in the neutral zone from his own zone all the way into the empty net.

Graves (3) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (1) notched the assists as the Avalanche went ahead, 5-1, at 19:06 of the third period.

At the final horn, Colorado secured the 3-0 series lead with a, 5-1, road victory at Enterprise Center on Friday.

The Blues finished the night leading in shots on goal, 32-26, despite being outshot by the Avalanche in the third period alone, 9-6.

The Avs exited the building with the advantage in blocked shots (17-10) and faceoff win% (52-48), while St. Louis led in giveaways (16-9) and hits (46-20).

St. Louis finished 0/3 and Colorado went 0/4 on the power play in Game 3.

The Avalanche have a chance to sweep the Blues while in St. Louis and punch their ticket to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanely Cup Playoffs on Sunday.

Puck drop for Game 4 is expected around 5 p.m. ET and fans looking for national coverage of the game in the United States can tune their television sets and more to NBCSN, while those in Canada can view the game on SN360 or TVAS.

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Habs steal Game 1 on the road, 2-1, Leafs lose Tavares to injury

Paul Byron scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period as the Montréal Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1, on the road at Scotiabank Arena in Game 1 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup on Thursday.

Maple Leafs captain, John Tavares, suffered an upper body injury and was hospitalized as a result of a freak accident about midway into the first period.

Ben Chiarot hit Tavares in the open ice as Tavares was entering the neutral zone, before Corey Perry inadvertently clipped Tavares in the head as the Leafs forward’s body bounced along the ice like a rag-doll from Chiarot’s initial check.

Perry had leapt to avoid making a major collision with Tavares, but everything had happened so quickly that Perry might have made things worse– if not just as bad as they would’ve been had he not attempted to bail out with nowhere else to go at the last second.

Toronto’s medical staff assisted Tavares– being deliberate and careful with every move due to the immediate uncertainty of the severity of Tavares’ injury.

The Leafs captain tried to get up and nearly fell backwards head first onto the ice if it weren’t for Toronto’s trainers grabbing hold of their injured player.

As Tavares was being placed on the stretcher, visibly shaken shots of Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, Joe Thornton, other teammates and the Canadiens bench were interspersed on the national broadcast with too many cuts of the hit and subsequent second impact on replay.

Tavares gave his teammates a thumbs up as he was stretchered off the ice and was “communicating well,” at a local hospital according to Maple Leafs head coach, Sheldon Keefe, after the game. His initial tests were clear.

Perry and Tavares are good friends and were teammates on Canada’s national team several times over their careers and the Habs forward wished Tavares well with a pat as Tavares was stretchered off the ice and thoughtful remarks after the game for the best possible outcome.

Though Nick Foligno and Perry fought after the ensuing faceoff, it cannot be stressed enough that Perry had no malicious intent in the unfortunate circumstance that led to Tavares’ injury.

Known as a power forward for much of his career, Perry’s offensive talent has waned over the years as last season’s Dallas Stars and this year’s Canadiens have relied on his presence more so for his big frame and grit.

He was most recently suspended five games for elbowing Nashville Predators defender, Ryan Ellis, in the 2020 Winter Classic as a member of the Stars and received a major, as well as a match penalty as a result of the injury to Ellis.

Unlike the supplemental discipline that awaits Colorado Avalanche forward, Nazem Kadri, for his blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, on Wednesday night, Perry’s knee to Tavares’ head on Thursday was not a deliberate act to injure.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (1-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .972 save percentage in one game played), made 35 saves on 36 shots against in the win for Montréal.

Jack Campbell (0-1, 2.07 goals-against average, .933 save percentage in one game played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced in the loss for Toronto.

For the first time since 1979, the Maple Leafs and Canadiens are facing each other in a postseason series. Montréal swept Toronto in four games in the 1979 Quarterfinals, while the last time the Leafs beat the Habs in a playoff series was back in the 1967 Stanley Cup Final (Toronto won in six games).

Riley Nash made his Leafs debut on Thursday after being acquired ahead of the trade deadline and immediately being placed on the long term injured reserve.

After Tavares’ injury, Foligno and Perry dropped the gloves at 10:30 of the first period and received five-minute major penalties for fighting.

Almost two minutes later, Josh Anderson (1) had a breakaway and fired a wrist shot over Campbell’s glove to give the Canadiens a, 1-0, lead at 12:08 of the first period.

Eric Staal (1) and Tyler Toffoli (1) tallied the assists on Anderson’s goal.

Late in the opening frame, Toffoli hooked Zach Hyman and presented the Maple Leafs with the night’s first power play at 18:43.

Toronto did not capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage.

Entering the first intermission, Montréal led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trialing the Maple Leafs, 14-13, in shots on goal.

The Canadiens held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), hits (28-13) and faceoff win percentage (72-28), while Toronto led in takeaways (3-1).

Both teams had four giveaways each, while only the Leafs had encountered a skater advantage and were 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

Montréal got a taste of a power play at 1:25 of the second period when Justin Holl sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game minor penalty as a result.

The Habs weren’t able to convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Morgan Rielly sent a shot on Price that generated a rebound whereby William Nylander (1) collected the garbage from aside the crease– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Rielly (1) and Holl (1) had the assists on Nylander’s goal at 4:28 of the second period.

A couple minutes later, Chiarot was assessed a roughing minor at 6:43, but the Canadiens managed to kill off the penalty without issue.

Late in the period, Montréal got another chance on the power play at 14:35, after Jason Spezza hooked Nick Suzuki, but the Habs couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of action, the score was tied, 1-1, despite Toronto leading in shots on goal, 22-20, including an, 8-7, advantage in the second period alone.

Montréal led in blocked shots (9-5), hits (44-19) and faceoff win% (59-42), while Toronto held the advantage in takeaways (9-5) and giveaways (11-8) entering the second intermission.

Both teams were 0/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Marner sent an errant puck over the glass at 2:48 and presented Montréal with another power play at 2:48 of the third period.

Nylander did the same at 7:15.

Both times the Canadiens failed to score on the skater advantage.

Moments later, Tomas Tatar caught Jake Muzzin with a high stick at 11:29 of the third period, leading to a power play for the Leafs.

About a minute later, however, the Habs capitalized on the penalty kill as Joel Armia poked the puck off of Thornton’s blade, leading to a quick breakout for Byron that turned into a short breakaway for the Habs forward.

Byron (1) was tripped before chipping the puck over Campbell’s glove side– negating a delayed penalty– and giving the Canadiens a, 2-1, lead at 12:44 of the third period.

Armia (1) had the only assist on the goal that would go on to be the game-winner as the clock eventually ticked down to zero.

Spezza tripped Shea Weber at 13:54, but the Habs failed to convert on the ensuing power play.

Phillip Danault tripped Hyman at 16:42, but the Leafs couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.

Keefe pulled Campbell for an extra attacker with about 2:15 remaining in the game, but it was to no avail– even after Toronto drew up plans to tie the game after a stoppage in play led to Keefe using his timeout with 1:51 remaining in regulation.

At the final horn, the Canadiens had won, 2-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead.

The Maple Leafs finished the night leading in shots on goal, 36-30, including a, 14-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Habs wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in blocked shots (13-10), hits (55-27) and faceoff win% (56-44), while both teams had 16 giveaways each.

Montréal finished the night 0/5 on the power play and Toronto went 0/4 on the skater advantage in Game 1.

Montréal has a chance to take a 2-0 series lead on the road Saturday night in Toronto.

Puck drop at Scotiabank Arena is expected to be a little after 7 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to CNBC, while those in Canada can catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

MacKinnon’s hat trick gives Avs 2-0 series lead

Nathan MacKinnon scored a hat trick as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the St. Louis Blues, 6-3, in Game 2 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round series on Wednesday, but that’s not the only big thing to have happened in the matchup.

Avalanche forward, Nazem Kadri, is likely to face supplemental discipline from the league’s Department of Player Safety for his high, blindside, hit on Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in the third period of Wednesday night’s action at Ball Arena.

Kadri has not been suspended since the 2019 First Round when he retaliated– then as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs– with a cross check to the face of Boston Bruins forward, Jake DeBrusk.

He has faced numerous fines and suspensions before prior to the DeBrusk incident– though in accordance with the league’s 18-month timeline for repeat offenders it’s more than likely that Kadri won’t be defined as one in whatever additional discipline he’s about to face.

Nevertheless, the hit was bad.

Whether Kadri will be back at all in this series or at all in the remainder of the 2021 postseason remains to be seen.

Philipp Grubauer (2-0, 2.00 goals-against average, .931 save percentage in two games played) made 32 saves on 35 shots against in the win for Colorado.

St. Louis goaltender, Jordan Binnington (0-2, 4.07 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in two games played), made 29 saves on 33 shots faced in the loss.

David Perron remained on the league’s COVID protocol list as the Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and a few other teams across the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball had an issue with COVID testing at a lab.

Though Perron was unaffected by the mass false positive tests produced, the Blues and Golden Knights were promptly retested and cleared to play.

Joonas Donskoi (1) kicked things off with a deflection goal 35 seconds into the first period as the Avs went up, 1-0, on the scoreboard thanks to his presence in front of the net while Ryan Graves got a shot off from the point.

Graves (1) and Kadri (1) had the assists on Donskoi’s first goal of the night and the Avalanche got off to a hot start– wasting little time to pull ahead of the Blues on home ice.

Late in the period, St. Louis’ Robert Thomas sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game penalty and presenting Colorado with the night’s first chance on the power play at 17:35.

It took the Avalanche less than a minute to dominate on the skater advantage and capitalize on their first power play of the game as MacKinnon (3) cut to the middle of the point with heavy traffic in front of Binnington before firing a shot through the legs of a Blues defender, as well as MacKinnon’s own teammate, Gabriel Landeskog, and into the twine.

Cale Makar (1) and Donskoi (1) notched the assists on MacKinnon’s power-play goal and the Avs led, 2-0, at 18:05.

After one period of action, Colorado led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 19-6, in shots on goal.

The Avalanche also dominated in blocked shots (7-6), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-0) and faceoff win percentage (70-30), while St. Louis held the advantage in hits (13-8).

The Blues had yet to see time on the power play, while the Avs were already 1/1 heading into the first intermission.

Early in the middle frame, Ivan Barbashev hooked MacKinnon and presented the Avalanche with a power play at 2:48 of the second period.

Less than a minute into the ensuing skater advantage, MacKinnon sent a shot from the point that Donskoi (2) deflected while acting as a screen in the slot with Landeskog.

MacKinnon (2) and Mikko Rantanen (3) picked up the assists on Donskoi’s power-play goal as the Avalanche extended their lead to, 3-0, at 3:14 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Sammy Blais (1) sent the puck off of Grubauer from about the goal line as the rubber biscuit had eyes and trickled through the Colorado netminder’s five-hole and into the net.

Kyle Clifford (1) and Torey Krug (1) recorded their first assists of the postseason on Blais’ goal as the Blues cut Colorado’s lead to two-goals, 3-1, at 16:17.

Though the Avs led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 28-20, in shots on goal after two periods, St. Louis held the advantage in second period shots alone, 14-9.

The Blue Notes also led in blocked shots (11-8) and hits (23-16) after 40 minutes, while the Avalanche maintained an advantage in takeaways (8-3), giveaways (9-5) and faceoff win% (68-33).

Colorado was 2/2 on the power play heading into the final period as the Blues had still yet to encounter a legal skater advantage in the action.

Then it happened.

Early in the third period, Kadri hit Faulk from a blindside angle, right to the head.

Faulk was visibly unwell and laying facedown on the ice– the CNBC broadcast briefly showed Faulk motionless on the ice, looking dazed and– even to the untrained eye– clearly unconscious as a scrum gathered along the side boards closest to the penalty benches.

Kadri was given a five-minute major for an illegal hit to the head, which was reviewed and confirmed. He was also given a match penalty at 6:30 of the third period.

St. Louis was already down a skater in Robert Bortuzzo– who had taken something up high earlier in the night– and was now short Faulk on the bench for the remainder of Wednesday’s action.

Late in the five-minute power play, Brayden Schenn (1) buried a rebound off of a rush that he generated with Tyler Bozak entering the zone– with Bozak firing the initial shot before Schenn collected the garbage.

Bozak (1) and Krug (2) had the assists on Schenn’s power-play goal as the Blues pulled to within one, 3-2, at 10:07 of the third period.

About five minutes later, however, Colorado answered.

MacKinnon (4) sent another shot from the point over Binnington’s blocker side with traffic in front of the net.

Devon Toews (1) and Landeskog (3) collected the assists as the Avalanche bumped their lead back to two-goals, 4-2, at 15:25.

But 15 seconds later, Mike Hoffman (1) had a quick breakout the other way and sent one of his patented quick-release shots off of Grubauer under his blocker side and into the top left corner of the goalframe.

Niko Mikkola (1) and Thomas (2) had the assists on Hoffman’s goal as the Blues pulled back to within one, 4-3, at 15:40.

St. Louis’ head coach, Craig Berube, pulled Binnington for an extra attacker with about 2:18 remaining in the game.

It didn’t take long for Colorado to score.

Brandon Saad (1) simply cleared the puck from behind the red line into the open 4×6 net as Tyson Jost (1) and Toews (2) picked up the assists to make it, 5-3, Colorado at 17:51.

Once more the Blue Notes pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker after getting possession deep into the attacking zone.

Though the Avalanche would also once again capitalize on the empty net– this time as MacKinnon (5) completed his hat trick with the assists going to Rantanen (4) and Landeskog (4) as the Avs pulled ahead, 6-3, at 19:48.

At the final horn, the Avalanche secured a 2-0 series lead with a commanding, 6-3, victory in Game 2 at Ball Arena in Denver.

Colorado finished the night leading in blocked shots (17-14), giveaways (11-5) and faceoff win% (64-36), while St. Louis exited the building leading in hits (26-19).

Both teams finished with 35 shots apiece, though the Blues led in shots on goal in the third period alone, 15-7.

St. Louis went 1/2 on the skater advantage while Colorado was a perfect 2/2 on the power play on Wednesday.

The Avs lead the series 2-0 as the venue shifts to Enterprise Center for Game 3 in St. Louis on Friday.

Puck drop is expected a little after 9:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to national coverage on USA Network, while those in Canada can watch the action on SN360 or TVAS2.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

MacKinnon’s pair powers Avs past Blues, 4-1, in Game 1

Cale Makar opened the scoring for the Colorado Avalanche in their, 4-1, victory over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup, but it was Nathan MacKinnon that scored the eventual game-winner as well as an empty net goal and Gabriel Landeskog that had a “Gordie Howe hat trick” in the bout.

Philipp Grubauer (1-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .957 save percentage in one game played) turned aside 22 out of 23 shots in the win for Colorado in front of their home crowd at Ball Arena.

St. Louis goaltender, Jordan Binnington (0-1, 3.05 goals-against average, .939 save percentage in one game played), made 46 saves on 49 shots faced in the loss.

The Avalanche and Blues are meeting for just the second time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history with Colorado having beaten St. Louis in five games in their only previous series matchup in the 2001 Western Conference Final.

Colorado, of course, would go on to win the Cup that year– and their second in franchise history– while the Blues would wait until 2019 for their first Stanley Cup ring.

The Avalanche are making their 26th appearance in the postseason dating back to their days as the Québec Nordiques, while the Blues are appearing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 44th time in their history.

Colorado went 5-3-0 in the regular season against the Blue Notes in 2020-21.

St. Louis was without David Perron for Game 1 as Perron remains in the league’s COVID protocol.

Landeskog and Brayden Schenn kicked things off with an exchange of fisticuffs at 10:47 of the first period after Landeskog took exception for a perceived cheap shot by Schenn directed toward Mikko Rantanen.

The two skaters received fighting majors and were sent to the penalty box.

Moments later, Blues captain, Ryan O’Reilly, tripped MacKinnon and presented Colorado with their first power play of the night at 14:04.

It didn’t take the Avs long to convert on the resulting skater advantage as Rantanen fed Makar a pass off of an attacking zone faceoff, whereby Makar (1) waltzed along the blue line before wiring a shot from the point past Binnington to give the Avalanche a, 1-0, lead.

Rantanen (1) had the only assist on Makar’s power-play goal at 15:15 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the Avs led, 1-0, and were outshooting the Blues, 18-5.

St. Louis held the advantage in blocked shots (8-4) and hits (9-7), while Colorado led in giveaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (57-44). Both teams had four takeaways aside, while only the Avalanche had seen any time on the skater advantage and were 1/1 in that department heading into the middle frame.

Blues defender, Justin Faulk, caught Avalanche blue liner, Samuel Girard with a slash one minute into the second period.

This time, however, Colorado could not beat the Blue Notes on the ensuing power play.

Ryan Graves sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor infraction at 7:10 of the second period and presented St. Louis with their first power play of the night.

The Blues, however, were no match for Colorado’s penalty kill.

Midway through the middle frame, Sammy Blais hooked Andre Burakovsky at 10:21, but once more the Avalanche were stumped on the power play.

Late in the period, Jordan Kyrou (1) sent a one-timer past Grubauer’s blocker side as Nazem Kadri was separated from the puck in the neutral zone– leading to St. Louis’ break and Colorado’s defense to be out of position.

Ivan Barbashev (1) and Robert Thomas (1) had the assists on Kyrou’s goal as the Blues tied the game, 1-1, at 16:31.

Through 40 minutes of action at Ball Arena, the Avs and Blues were even, 1-1, on the scoreboard, despite Colorado outshooting St. Louis by a 2:1 ratio (32-16, to be exact, including a, 14-11, advantage in the second period alone).

The Avalanche maintained an advantage in takeaways (8-7), giveaways (7-5) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the Blues led in blocked shots (14-11) and hits (16-8).

Colorado was 1/3 and St. Louis was 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

It didn’t take the Avalanche very long to get going in the third period as Rantanen sacrificed his body to absorb a hit while Landeskog pursued a loose puck in the attacking zone.

The two players quickly exchanged touches while Rantanen setup MacKinnon (1) with a pass for the top-shelf one-timer goal.

Rantanen (2) and Landeskog (1) had the assists as Colorado’s first line trio put the Avs ahead, 2-1, 30 seconds into the third period.

Moments later, Graves cut another rut to the sin bin– this time for tripping Blais at 5:32– but the Avalanche’s penalty kill managed to kill off the minor with ease.

A few minute later, Devon Toews sent the puck to Rantanen along the boards, who dealt it back to the point where Girard then moved the rubber biscuit to MacKinnon for a blast from the high slot.

MacKinnon’s shot was deflected by Landeskog (1), however, as the Avalanche captain was battling in front of the net as a screen.

Landeskog’s goal made it, 3-1, Colorado at 8:30 of the third period and MacKinnon (1) and Girard (1) were credited with the assists as Landeskog completed the “Gordie Howe hat trick” (goal, assist and a fight) on the event sheet.

With 1:32 remaining in regulation, Blues head coach, Craig Berube, pulled Binnington for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Jared Bednar’s Avalanche kept St. Louis from establishing a prolonged 6-on-5 advantage in the attacking zone.

Landeskog broke up a play with a diving poke check at the blue line that led MacKinnon into a race for the loose puck before MacKinnon (2) scooped it up and buried an empty net goal with punctuation.

It wasn’t just a nonchalant tap-in. It was a statement.

Colorado had taken a three-goal lead, 4-1, with Landeskog (2) earning his third point of the night on MacKinnon’s second goal of the game at 19:20.

As the final horn sounded and a scrum ensued after the, 4-1, victory was complete for the Avalanche in Game 1, Binnington charged down the ice like a bat out of hell looking to fight what we can only assume to have been Grubauer had an on-ice official not grabbed the Blues netminder before he could enter the slot.

Binnington previously charged then San Jose Sharks goaltender turned current Avalanche backup, Devan Dubnyk, earlier in the regular season in the calendar year, 2021.

Though St. Louis came back to beat the Sharks that night, Binnington’s nightmare in the crease didn’t end in Game 1– not at least until he was pulled away and sent to the dressing room with the loss.

Colorado finished the night with the advantage in shots on goal, 50-23, including an, 18-7, advantage in the third period alone.

St. Louis, on the other hand, had wrapped up the action leading in blocked shots (19-15), giveaways (8-7), hits (21-16) and faceoff win% (53-47) despite being outplayed.

The Blues went 0/2 and the Avalanche went 1/3 on the power play on Monday.

Colorado takes a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 on home ice Wednesday night at Ball Arena. Puck drop is expected a little after 10:30 p.m. ET.

Viewers looking to catch the action in the United States can tune to CNBC for national coverage, while those in Canada can choose from SN360 and TVAS.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #177- And A Dollar Short

2020 Winter Classic sweater reviews, a standings update and Top-10 NHL power rankings.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #171- 2019-20 Season Preview: Central Division

All of the (good) RFAs have been re-signed, the Carolina Hurricanes keep making moves, 2020 Winter Classic logos have been revealed and DTFR’s season previews conclude with the Central Division.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.