NHL Western Conference playoffs: Colorado Avalanche vs St. Louis Blues series preview and predictions

Nathan MacKinnon can lead the Avalanche to Stanley Cup glory this season
Photo of Mark Lammey

Mark Lammey

NHL · 1 month ago

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I've been a capper since my love for sports met my proficiency with numbers and math. The NFL and NCAAF have always been my first loves, followed by the NHL. Although I prefer sports that involve hitting people, I still love capping MLB, soccer, tennis, and even some esports. Living in Florida has its perks like year-round sports of any kind.

With the first round of the playoffs in the books, the second round kicks off with the current Stanley Cup-favorite Avalanche and 2019 Stanley Cup-winning Blues. Colorado enters this series with several days of well-earned rest after sweeping the Nashville Predators. Meanwhile, the Blues had a hard-fought series against the Wild, which they took in 6 games. The Avalanche are heavy favorites in this series, but the Blues will not go quietly.

Breaking down the St. Louis Blues

The Blues are regarded as one of the most physically tough teams, and proved that throughout the first round. They battled with the Wild throughout the regular season for the second seed in the Central division, but fell just short. They met again in the first round, and St. Louis proved that they did not need any home ice advantage. They’re a team with both experience and youth, and will be a tough out for the Avalanche.

Skaters Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich are seasoned veterans that bring leadership to the team for their new young stud, Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou first got his name out there for casual fans by defeating Connor McDavid in the speed-skating competition during all-star weekend. He continued proving himself when it mattered by recording 75 points in 74 games, including 27 goals. That was behind only Tarasenko and Buchnevich, with their 34 and 30 goals, respectively. Buchnevich came over from the Rangers in the offseason, and has proven that his toughness was exactly what the Blues needed. As if he wasn’t intimidating enough, St. Louis finished the season with 9 skaters with 20 or more goals. That is unheard of, and provided great support in front of their goaltending.

St. Louis had an interesting situation in net this season, but it was certainly effective enough to get them to this point. They began the season with Jordan Binnington as the starter, and then eventually switched to Vile Husso. It’s not common for a team to not have a solidified starter and still be successful, but the Blues were able to do so. They had nearly an even split in the regular season with Binnington’s 37 starts and Husso’s 38. The situation was the same in the first round, each starting 3 of the 6 games against the Wild. They finished the regular season allowing just 2.91 goals per game, and allowed just 2.67 per game in the first round. That’s an impressive average against one of the highest scoring teams in the league in the Wild. However, one of the few teams that find the back of the net even more, is the Avalanche.

Breaking down the Colorado Avalanche

Despite not winning the President’s Trophy, the Avalanche remained the Stanley Cup favorite throughout the regular season. Even through superstar injuries, the oddsmakers never wavered. They proved why that was the case with an absolutely dominant first round sweep against the Predators. Colorado has an entire all-star roster and is the clear favorite to take home the Cup.

It all starts with Nathan MacKinnon, who rivals Connor McDavid in debates about who is the overall best skater in the NHL. The only issue with MacKinnon has been his injuries, but he’s back healthy and still recorded 88 points in just 65 games. He is always on pace for 100-point seasons, and should have plenty in his career if he can remain healthy. The Avalanche have multiple skaters consistently on pace for 100-point seasons. In fact, they had 4 other skaters average over a point per game this season. Mikko Ranatanen reached 92 in 75 games, and was nearly the first Colorado skater to reach 100 in 15 years. Gabriel Landeskog had 59 points in 51 games before having surgery that sidelined him for quite some time. All he did was then return for the postseason and scored 3 goals and recorded 3 assists in the first round.

While that big trio missed time with injuries, it was former Maple Leaf Nazem Kadri that seemed to hold the team together. He finished his season with 87 points in 71 games. All of this is without mentioning the Norris trophy-finalist for best defenseman in Cale Makar. The 23 year-old set a franchise record for points by a defenseman with 86 and 77 games. He is clearly on pace to be one of the future superstars of the NHL.

With all of this talent, it’s no surprise the Avalanche finished as the second-best goal-scoring team at home, with 4.15 goals per game. They continued that success with the best in the postseason thus far, scoring 5.25 goals per game. It’s not difficult to understand why this team has remained the favorite to hoist the Cup.

St. Louis Blues vs Colorado Avalanche series prediction: Colorado Avalanche (-380)

The Avalanche are heavy favorites once again, and deservedly so. However, this series should not be nearly as smooth as it was in the first round against Nashville. The Blues are a tough team that can handle high-powered teams better than most. They just finished off the Wild without needing a Game seven; Minnesota was the 3rd-best goal-scoring team at home with 4.10 goals per game, just behind the Avalanche.

Not only can the Blues defend well, their numerous 20+ goal scorers can do damage as well. It provides them with three full lines of talent, preventing the opposition from ever taking a shift off. However, the Avalanche are still a roster that is an embarrassment of riches. Their superstars can put up the numbers that the Blues’ entire three lines can, and they still have great secondary pieces such as Devon Toews. St. Louis should be able to take a game or two from Colorado, which could end this series with a 4-2 Avalanche win.

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