The Blues have accosted the monstrous Colorado Avalanche three times this month, putting up a helluva fight.
The Blues lost two tight games in Denver by razor’s edge scores of 3-2 and 2-1. The competition resumed Wednesday night in St. Louis with another one-goal loss (4-3) for the Blues. After falling behind by three goals in a terrible second-period, the Blues reassembled and made a spirited charge over the final two minutes. Mike Hoffman went gatling gun again, scoring twice to cut the Avs lead to one.
The puck, and the luck, stopped there. The Blues’ modest three-game winning streak was terminated. They lost to Colorado for the fourth consecutive time and 1-4 in the season series.
The rocket-propelled team from the Mile High City zoomed on, hurtling to a 17-1-2 record in their last 20 games, burning flustered opponents with a staggering plus-42 goal differential.
The 30-9-4 Avs are elite at any altitude. They’ve scored 60 percent of the goals in their first 43 games — including nearly 67% of the tallies in the last 20. They’re looking like the Wayne Gretzky era Edmonton Oilers.
But let’s get back to the Blues. I’ve given you a couple of stats that showcase Colorado’s domination. And in that context these recent Blues-Avs matchups are rather interesting. Why? With the Avalanche doing a landslide on overwhelmed opponents, the Blues play them tougher than anyone. I’m referring to their three games vs. Colorado since April 2.
Yes. A loss is a loss is a loss … blah blah blah bah.
Yes. I understand.
I’m also intrigued by this:
== During the Avs’ current 17-1-2 onslaught, they’ve collected the three one-goal victories over St. Louis.
== In Colorado’s 14 wins over other teams during this stretch, only two were by one goal.
== Colorado has outscored the Blues 9-6 in their three wins, for an average score of 3-2.
== In its other 14 wins over other teams, Colorado has outscored opponents 65 to 21. That’s an average score of 4.6 goals to 1.5 goals.
The Blues can hang with these guys. At a time when the Avs are pretty much annihilating all challengers, the Blues are the exception.
One more time: A loss is a loss is a loss.
But when you grapple with the mightiest hockey team on the continent and can stick and stay and take the suspense down to the final seconds, you’re close enough to believe that a different outcome remains possible.
And it’s not as if the Blues have been some unstoppable machine as of late. The three-game win streak was overdue, timely, and appreciated. But The Note still has many issues — the most prominent being the ineptitude and impotence at scoring goals.
The Blues have done an admirable job of limiting the potential damage inflicted by Colorado’s frightful scoring power.
In the three recent close-call wins over the Blues, the Avs have six even-strength goals. This year the Avs are averaging 3.28 even-strength goals per 60 minutes; in the last three contests vs. STL they’ve averaged 2.5 goals per 60 at even strength.
Colorado’s big line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen has three even-strength goals in the last three games vs. the Blues; two of the three came in one game. When playing other opponents during the team’s torrid streak, the No. 1 line has averaged 1.25 even-strength goals in 17 games.
Of course the Avs have a lot more going than one sensational line. And three dominant defensemen — Samuel Girard, Devon Toews and Cale Makar — are scary.
For the Blues to contain this group by allowing only six even-strength goals in the last 180 minutes of competition — well, that ain’t easy to do. And it isn’t over.
The teams will play three more times next week.
Can the Blues continue to suppress Colorado’s goal count? It’s a difficult assignment. Should the teams meet again later — say, in the first round of the playoffs — will the Blues cause Colorado anxiety by restricting goals? That’s to be determined later, if at all. First, the Blues must actually qualify for the postseason. To that end, their Saturday game at Arizona is a biggie.
The Blues have another problem to solve in next week’s round of games against Colorado. Preventing goals is a large part of the Blues’ test. But the Blues must find a way to score more goals against the Avs.
In the last three losses to the Avs, the Blues had only three even-strength goals: two by Hoffman, one by Ryan O’Reilly. And they’ve matched Colorado by scoring three times on the power play. (Hoffman, David Perron, Vince Dunn.)
In the three games Brayden Schenn had nine shots on goal but didn’t score in 59 minutes of action at all strengths.
No goals for Vladimir Tarasenko on six shots in 55 minutes.
No goals for Jaden Schwartz on six shots in 53 minutes.
No goals for Jordan Kyrou on five shots in 31 minutes. No even-strength goals for David Perron, Zach Sanford, Tyler Bozak or Kyle Clifford. No even-strength goals by defensemen Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Dunn.
Including power plays, Hoffman has four goals in the last three games against Colorado.
The rest of the team has two.
C’mon now. There’s no excuse for that.
The hard part is defending the castle and keeping the Avs in check. To do that well, only to fail to score enough to turn a close game into a win? That’s awfully frustrating.
Wednesday the Blues had some delicious chances and flubbed them. The Blues did the Tyler O’Neill on several 2-on-1 rushes by striking out.
So even if the Blues can keep the prolific Avs offense relatively quiet in the games to come, it won’t matter unless the Blues can start banking goals of their own.
In their last three matches against Colorado, the Blues showed they’re capable of mounting plenty of resistance. Even in defeat, that’s notable … and positive to an extent. But getting close doesn’t win games. If the Blues can stay close in their upcoming rematches with Avs, they can only win by finishing those games.
“We can compete with anyone. It’s a tough league,” Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington said via video conference after Wednesday’s loss. “Any team can win on any given night. But those are close games for us, and we’re right there. Just a little more. So it’s just pick ourselves up and keep working and keep focusing and playing together and hopefully it comes together.”
Thanks for reading …
Please check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.