Good day. There’s a lot of sickness and sadness and divisiveness out there, but I hope the Blues gave you a chance to relax and spend a few hours in a happier place. The Blues made the blues go away during Wednesday’s 4-1 victory in a delightful season-opener at Colorado.
Random and Recently Recovered Thoughts:
1. I didn’t realize that Colorado was beatable. Based on the North American hockey-media predictions, I thought the Avs had already won the Stanley Cup, and were about to get into formation to have the parade in downtown Denver.
2. It was a night of stellar work from goaltender Jordan Binnington. He stopped all 21 shots at 5-on-5, including four scoring chances from the high-danger area. He was at his stubborn, resistant best in the second period, when Colorado controlled play at 5-on-5, outshooting the Blues 15-6. The Avs had 10 scoring chances to the Blues’ six. And here’s the capper: the home team had a huge 6-1 edge in high-danger shots in the second period, 6-1, but the Avs couldn’t crack Binnington.
3. Mike Hoffman was a no-show. Work-visa problems that delayed his Blues debut until (probably) Friday. And here I was, confused … I thought these visa-related snags only happened to Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez.
4. The ever-so-curious Oskar Sundqvist took the visa matter into his own hands, scoring two goals after being subbed into Hoffman’s place on the second line in an instinctively sharp move by coach Craig Berube. Why do I use the word “curious” to describe Sundqvist? He’s Zelig. (Google it, kids.) He’s Bruce Banner. He’s a Swiss Army knife, but for now we’ll change that to The Swede Army Knife in honor of Oskar’s homeland. Wikipedia tells us the knife “generally has a main spearpoint blade plus other blades and tools such as screwdrivers, a can opener, and many others. These are stowed inside the handle of the knife through a pivot point mechanism.” That’s Oskar. Sundqvist excels on the fourth line. He’s a banger. Nasty. Perhaps a tad deranged, at least in a hockey way. But if you need Oskar to be Hoffman, he can be Hoffman. Berube knew that Oskar is always stowed inside the handle of the knife — available for whatever the coach needs to handle. In this game it was everything: Two goals, led the Blues with three hits. Led the Blues with four blocked shots. Probably opened a few cans of beer, too. After the game, of course.
5. Robert Thomas had the Avs looking for a bottle of eyewash because he made the puck disappear — then made the puck suddenly reappear and materialize on the blade of a teammate’s stick for an easy-goal setup. The Avs thought they saw the puck — but they really didn’t. They were helpless to do much of anything when Thomas the Conjuror spun their eyes for two assists. Get used to this, good people. Last season Thomas was one of the finest if overlooked passers in the league; his rate of 2.0 assists per 60 minutes tied Ryan O’Reilly for the team lead and ranked tied for 15th among NHL forwards that played in 50+ games.
6. After watching Thomas complete those passes, Denver Broncos president of football John Elway instructed the team’s new GM to draft Thomas in the first round, and will have Thomas compete with Drew Lock for the No. 1 quarterback job in 2021.
7. Defenseman Torey Krug was plus-1 with one shot on goal, two hits and three blocked shots in his first game as a Blue. Krug and partner Colton Parayko invested much of their 5-on-5 time protecting Binnington’s house from Nathan MacKinnon’s line — blanking them at even strength.
8. Justin Faulk was a +3 in the game. At even strength Faulk and defensive partner Marco Scandella (+2) were utilized most often against Colorado’s second hotshot line of Nazem Kadri, Brandon Saad and Gabriel Landeskog. How did that work out? Kadri was a minus 4. Saad and Landeskog each were minus 3. Berube didn’t really go with one line vs. the Kadri trio, and the committee approach worked. And Faulk and Scandella were a shutdown pair in this one.
9. Welcome to the Blues, Kyle Clifford. And it was a good 30th birthday for you yesterday.
10. Looks like Jordan Kyrou plans to stay a while, and he likes the third-line accommodations.
11. The Avs thrive on fast and furious rush attempts — if opponents are sloppy and careless with the puck. The Blues didn’t offer any favors; for at least this night the Avalanche found it difficult to zoom in on odd-man rushes. On a related note, I liked the Blues’ speed. The other day Berube told me he thought his team would be faster this season.
12. From the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers: “Those Stanley Cup expectations might have gone to Colorado’s collective heads.”
“We just got outworked,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said.
13. Indeed, Colorado was the overwhelmingly popular choice to win the West Division this season; for example 73 percent of a 41-person hockey-media panel at The Athletic chose the Avs over Vegas (24%) and St. Louis (2.4%). As for winning the Stanley Cup, the panel gave Colorado a 63.4 percent shot to get it done. There were no votes for the Blues. In other words, zero percent.
The Avalanche are very good, possibly great, and it’s hardly a stretch to imagine them winning the division, or possibly The Cup. But Blues evidently plan to contest the poll results.
“Yeah, I think that’s been kind of our mentality since the bubble and since we lost in the first round last year,” Thomas said. “I think we’re ready to go, we’re ready to prove to everyone that we’re still a top team in this league and a Stanley Cup contender. That was our drive today and I think we played a great team game and really showed everyone not to sleep on us.”
Thanks for reading …
Listen to Bernie’s sports-talk radio show on 590-AM, KFNS, weekdays from 3-6 p.m. You can listen online or download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app is available in your app store.