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Avalanche v Blues – Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Round 1 Preview

Avalanche v Blues

Avalanche v Blues
Sam Girard and Tyson Jost could play huge roles in Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Colorado Avalanche. Photo: Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images


The Colorado Avalanche are your 2021 NHL Presidents Trophy Champions. Their reward for being the best team in the NHL is home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round matchup against the St. Louis Blues. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a reward. Avalanche v Blues game one starts on Monday night.


The Avalanche won the eight-game season series with a 5-3-0 record but have lost their last two against their rivals. That seems to have former Av’s center and current Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly confident as he declared “we’re going to beat them” in the post-game press conference after a game 56 win over the Minnesota Wild. As an Av’s fan, this is where I ask what’s he smoking and can I have some, but he may not be far wrong.


I wanted the Avalanche to beat Vegas to the Honda West Division title, but the downside has always been having to face the Blues. I just don’t like how the Avalanche stack up against them despite an 8-0 win earlier in the year. Jordan Binnington is hitting form posting a .918 in his last five games. He’s also posted a .833, .857, and .893 during the season though against the Avalanche which will be at the back of his mind. The loss of David Perron to COVID protocol for Game One will also hinder the Blues chances.


Obviously for the Avalanche to have their way with the Blues they will need Nathan MacKinnon back. But is being back going to be enough? Watching him struggle against the Vegas Golden Knights in the May 10th game was hard and if that is the MacKinnon we get at the beginning of these playoffs it could spell trouble. The rest of the team will need to be lights out to allow him time to get back to speed.


Here’s looking at you Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and… Tyson Jost? If MacKinnon struggles, expect to see Jost on that top line with Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Although if the Blues try to match lines like they successfully did in the final two series games don’t be surprised if Bednar throws Nazem Kadri up there to counteract the grit of O’Reilly.


While it has not been announced yet if the Avalanche will burn the first year of his rookie contract, Alex Newhook could very well be the difference-maker, especially if Brandon Saad can’t start. The 2019 draft pick has held his own so far and is probably the only player the Blues have not seen this season on the Av’s roster. While he has yet to score he has played a role in several goals and has three points in six games.


I can’t bring myself to pick against the Av’s but I also fear St. Louis. That’s why I’m going for a Colorado win in seven. I’m also hoping the Minnesota Wild can take a pound of flesh from Vegas and if possible upset the Knights in seven as well. That hope is off to a good start as Minnesota took game one in Vegas on Sunday afternoon.


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