In Game 1, the Colorado Avalanche were a Formula 1 car. The Blues were a hoopty with a clunk transmission and flat tires.

The Avs were max-speed, fiber optic internet. The Blues were an old AOL dial-up connection.

The Avs were Triple Crown winner Secretariat in the Belmont stakes. The Blues were Sham, the second-place horse who lost to Secretariat by 31 lengths.

From a St. Louis perspective, the difference between the teams was alarming. The talent gap was stunning. The no-show, no-account Blues were pathetically soft.

Amazingly the Avalanche had to go into overtime to claim their 3-2 victory late Tuesday night. Of course we know the truth behind that: without heroic goaltender Jordan Binnington, the Blues would have lost this one by a 30-2 score. OK, perhaps a slight exaggeration. But Binner was sensational.

May 17, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) blocks a shot against the Colorado Avalanche in overtime in game one of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully coach Craig Berube will give his team’s forwards this valuable reminder: you don’t need an entry visa to travel into the offensive zone. There is no checkpoint, manned by armed security guards. Just proceed and skate past the blue line and hold onto the puck and try to score goals.

In a related memo: forechecking isn’t illegal.

“You’ve got to make plays and you’ve got to get to the offensive zone more,” Berube said. “We didn’t get there enough tonight. They come with a lot of pressure. I think our forwards, they’ve got to work harder, they’ve got to get on pucks more and get to the offensive zone.

“We talked about it before the game – if you just put it out in the neutral zone, they’re going to counter and they came at us with a lot of speed and didn’t kill enough plays in the D-zone.”

There is nothing to fear except the Avalanche, and the Blues need to buckle up. You’re the team that came into this second-round postseason series with a Stanley Cup pedigree. Based on three consecutive second-round crashes (2019, ‘20, ‘21) the Avs were cast as head cases. Presumably we’ll see a change in the Blues attitude when they try to skate at altitude in Game 2.

From the Blues’ angle the basic numbers were so preposterously one-sided in Game 1, you have to laugh at the pure absurdity of it all.

— The Avs had 106 shot attempts. The Blues had 45.

— The shots on goal: 54 for the Avs, 25 for the Blues.

— Scoring chances: 43-13, Colorado.

— High-danger shots on net: 18-5, Avs.

— In the second period the Blues had 13 shot attempts to Colorado’s 40.

— In overtime, one team had all the shots on goal. Go ahead and a make a guess. Yes, the correct answer is the Avalanche, 13-0.

— The Blues won only 36 percent of the faceoffs during the evening.

For the most part the Blues held their own in the first period, and Ryan O’Reilly even gave the boys a 1-0 lead 6 minutes and 25 seconds into the game. That goal held up for the remainder of the first period. It was a promising start by the Blues. But the visitors wouldn’t score again until Jordan Kyrou tied it 2-2 on a power play goal with 3:14 remaining in the third period.

After the respectable first period this game turned into a massive rockslide … and Binnington stopped most of the rocks.

Beginning with the second period the Avs had 87 shot attempts to the Blues’ 29, the shots on goal were 46-18, the scoring chances were 35-9, and the high-danger shots were 17-1.

Other than that, the Blues played like the 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens.

The Avs disassembled the Blues with their top two scoring lines: Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Valeri Nichushkin on line one. Artturi Lehkonen, Nazem Kadri and Gabriel Landeskog on line two. At five on five, Colorado’s first two units had 55 of the 71 shot attempts, 41 of the 52 shots on net, and 24 of the 29 scoring chances.

Colorado’s two-best forward sets embarrassed the Blues top two lines – especially the overwhelmed and non-competitive threesome of Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko. “Booch” played just under 18 minutes at five on five and had no shots on goal. Thomas played nearly 19 minutes at five on five and had no shots on goal. Tarasenko – the worst and most disengaged player on the ice – had no shots on goal in 17 minutes and 43 seconds of five-on-five shifts. In 13 minutes together as a line at five on five, the trio managed only two scoring chances and flubbed them both.

Binnington valiantly stood before Colorado’s runaway train and did not twitch. He stopped 51 of 54 shots including 11 of 12 from high-danger spots.

“He did a good job,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “He kept us in the game. Gave us a chance to win, that’s for sure.”

Hold on …

Binnington did a “good” job?

No, Binnington did a phenomenal job.

A spectacular job.

An extraordinary job.

His initials, J.B., stand for “Just Brilliant.”

Binnington gave his zombie teammates a luminous postseason performance. Remember Binnington in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, and how he played in the first period at Boston in Game 7? Well, this was a remarkable 68 minutes of the same. Not just 20 minutes.

Binnington’s display was reminiscent of Curtis Joseph’s most incredible game in goal for the Blues. It was the 1993 postseason. It happened on May 5, Game 2 at the ancient Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Cujo blocked 57 of 58 shots and inspired the Blues to a 2-1 victory in two overtimes. I was there, covering the game as a columnist for the Post-Dispatch. I’ll never forget Cujo’s refusal to weaken and fold.

At least the ‘93 Blues won that game for Joseph. Binnington’s gift in Denver was wasted. Binnington did all that he could to steal Game 1 for the Blues, but the blues came up small and squandered the precious opportunity that he provided.

You just hope that Binnington can keep doing this and give his team a second chance. A third chance. But dammit, he can’t win this series by himself. As Game 1 proved, Binnington can’t hold the Avalanche off forever. When the dominant team has 80 percent of the scoring chances over the final 48 minutes of play, a puck will slip by him. But Binnington nearly pulled it off.

After replacing Ville Husso in goal during the Minnesota series and making four starts in a row, Binnington ranks first among all goaltenders of the surviving eight postseason teams in overall save percentage (.944), five-on-five save percentage (.949) and high-danger save percentage (.917.) Only two of 24 slot/crease shots have gotten past Binnington during the four games. He’s having a special run.

The Blues owe Binnington – big time – in Game 2. I would like to write a weak joke about this series opener and say the Blues struck out more times than Tyler O’Neill. But at least O’Neill takes swings. The Blues mostly stood and watched the Avalanche skate around them, through them, and by them. Maybe for Game 2 the Blues should use yellow police tape to seal off the neutral zone: Crime Scene. Do Not Cross.

Now, for some Happy Talk …

For as wretched as the Blues were, they lost a one-goal game that spilled into overtime. That’s crazy. Hell, if you bet on the Blues to cover the spread (+1.5 goals) you were an easy winner in Game 1.

Except for Binnington and a few others – Brandon Saad, Ivan Barbashev and Kyrou – no Blue stepped up.

Mostly they stepped in it.

In terms of getting skunked in offensive zone time, shot volume and shot quality, a team can’t play worse than this. So it’s reasonable to expect a significantly better effort and showing from the Blues in Game 2. Maybe a few of the team’s nine 20-goal scorers will reappear on Thursday.

Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper had very little to do. In 68 minutes of hockey, Kuemper faced only TWO high-danger shots by the Blues. TWO. Kuemper was so bored, he should have set up an adirondack chair in the crease and had a plate of the scrumptious Bison Indian Tacos delivered by the acclaimed Denver restaurant Tocabe.

The Blues made it ridiculously easy for Kuemper, and he still waved at two goals that eluded him. Imagine what the Blues could do to this dude if they actually caused Kuemper to break a sweat by making more than a few token saves.

I’m assuming that the St. Louis forwards and defensemen will try to get in the way of the Avs’ talent and offer more resistance in Game 2. If not, then they should buy tickets, grab some popcorn and sit in the stands to watch Colorado’s beautiful skating.

For Game 2, I’m thinking the Blues will NOT look like a team that had spent the afternoon of Game 1 at one of Colorado’s famous weed dispensaries.

Seriously, the Blues still can get back to St. Louis with the series tied 1-1. That opportunity hasn’t been lost, even though Game 1 was lost. Berube has an admirable touch at making adjustments, and he’ll be rearranging like a mad man between now and the opening faceoff in Game 2.

All of this sounds good, but it won’t matter unless Binnington continues to play like he has the song “Gloria” spinning in his head … 2019 style.

Let’s Go Blues.

No, really.

Let’s go in Game 2.

After Tuesday’s frustrating defeat, Money Puck gives the Blues only an 18.5% chance to win the series.

If the Blues don’t go get a win in Game 2, then they might have to begin making plans to go home for the summer. But this team has been resolute all season and usually responds with added determination when brought down. It’s time to do it again.

Thanks for reading …


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All stats used here were sourced from Hockey Reference or Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted.