(3C) Blues at (1C) Avalanche
Colorado leads best-of-7 series 1-0
9:30 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS
The St. Louis Blues will shake up their lines for Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena on Thursday.
Each of the top three lines will look different with the Blues trying to head home with a split of the first two games and end an eight-game postseason losing streak to the Avalanche.
Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series are 339-52 (.867), including 2-0 in the first round this season.
“We need more balance,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “To get that, I’m going to move some guys around and see if I can create some balance among our lines to score, get some opportunities to score, more attempts and things like that.”
The Blues were outshot 54-25 and outattempted 106-45 in Game 1, a 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday.
In perhaps the biggest move, Pavel Buchnevich is moving up to the first line, joining David Perron (five goals, four assists) and center Ryan O’Reilly (six goals, three assists), each tied for the St. Louis playoff scoring lead with nine points.
“[Buchnevich] is a heck of a player,” Perron said. “He does everything well on the ice, passing the puck, defensive sticks, all that stuff, so we are excited.”
Buchnevich is without a goal in the 2022 postseason, with four assists in seven games after scoring 30 goals during the regular season. He has not scored a goal in 15 playoff games in his NHL career.
The Blues will also have a heavier second line with Brayden Schenn between Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko, in part to try to cope with the Gabriel Landeskog–Nazem Kadri–Artturi Lehkonen line, which had 20 shot attempts in Game 1.
St. Louis will stay with the 11-forward, seven-defenseman lineup it has used since Game 4 of the first round.
Colorado is not expected to make any changes to its lineup in Game 1.
Here are 3 keys for Game 2:
1. Check, please
Though the Blues are making adjustments to try to limit the ability of the Avalanche to dominate for extended stretches of play, Berube said that will also require a better effort from his players to compete.
He wants to see them play the body more to slow Colorado’s speed game in transition, but more importantly, he wants to see a heavy forecheck.
Berube said he believes a suffocating forecheck is what allowed the Vegas Golden Knights to defeat the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Second Round last season.
“Well, [the Golden Knights] lost the first two games, but then their forecheck really turned it around for them,” Berube said. “Again, they didn’t give up odd-man rushes and they nullified their attack. It starts with the forecheck, 100 percent. Our forecheck was not very good. We didn’t get numbers in their end and we didn’t stall pucks.”
2. Laboring on the long change
The long change on the fly in the second period and overtime ate up St. Louis in Game 1. It was outshot 19-9 and outscored 2-0 in the second and were outshot 13-0 in overtime, which ended with defenseman Josh Manson scoring the winning goal at 8:02.
Colorado’s ability to start transition before tired players could return to the bench exacerbated the issue of dealing with the mile-high altitude for the visitors.
“That was an issue [in Game 1] with just our puck play,” Schenn said. “You throw out pucks, you chuck pucks away, guys aren’t able to get off.
“Obviously with the altitude and stuff like that, guys get tired and all of a sudden they keep coming at you. We got caught in a three-quarter-ice game for probably 15 minutes of that second period and you can’t do that against a good team like that.”
3. Focus on the dot
The Avalanche won 34 of 53 face-offs (64.2 percent) in Game 1, allowing them to further dominate possession.
The Blues are usually a good face-off team and O’Reilly is an elite face-off man. He won 12 of 28 (42.9 percent) in Game 1.
The battle in the circles will be a key area in determining the tenor of Game 2.
“Face-offs help,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “You start with the puck and you don’t have to spend time chasing it around and getting it back. It just gives you more opportunities to play offense.”
Blues projected lineup
Pavel Buchnevich — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron
Brandon Saad — Robert Thomas — Jordan Kyrou
Ivan Barbashev — Brayden Schenn — Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexei Toropchenko — Tyler Bozak
Nick Leddy — Colton Parayko
Calle Rosen — Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola — Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Nathan Walker, Logan Brown, Steven Santini
Injured: Torey Krug (lower body), Marco Scandella (lower body)
Avalanche projected lineup
Valeri Nichushkin — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog — Nazem Kadri — Artturi Lehkonen
Andre Burakovsky — J.T. Compher — Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Andrew Cogliano — Nico Sturm — Darren Helm
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson
Scratched: Logan O’Connor, Jack Johnson, Alex Newhook, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid, Justus Annunen
Scandella participated in St. Louis’ morning skate but isn’t ready to play. The defenseman has not played since first period of Game 4 in the first round. … Landeskog did not take part in the morning skate because of maintenance but is expected to play.