Finally this eight-game series is over.
In the concluding season-series meeting between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues it was the latter who got the last laugh. A sloppy and uninspired effort from the Avalanche contributed heavily to the 4-1 final score for the Blues. The final 10 games of the regular season must go better than this one.
A slow start didn’t help the visitors and neither did their continuing penalty kill woes when the Blues got on the board first just eight seconds into their first power play of the evening when Vlad Tarasenko fired the puck past Jonas Johansson at 9:25.
The sloppy play from the Avalanche didn’t stop there as the top line played hot potato with the puck and then executed poor defensive coverage. The result was Brayden Schenn scoring the second goal for the Blues at 13:34 when he was left uncovered in the slot. St. Louis then took 2-0 lead into the first intermission on five shots on goal.
David Perron got the Blues going early in period two with a tip in front of the net on more lackadaisical play from the top line. St. Louis took a commanding 3-0 lead at 7:02 and never looked back.
Despite looking disinterested for most of the game Nathan MacKinnon kept his now 14 game point streak going when the Avalanche finally cashed in on the power play at 8:24. It was a bit of a different look for MacKinnon he took a shot from down low.
Any progress made was pretty hollow as the Blues took the three goal lead back when Robert Thomas took advantage of more poor defensive play at 10:53. The second period concluded with the Blues at a comfortable 4-1 lead, which was enough for the eventual victory.
But there was still an entire third period to get through which was pretty much garbage time with the Avalanche generating 22 shot attempts and ten on goal. None of it was particularly threatening as the Blues held on to that 4-1 lead for the final score.
After a game like this the excuses for the Avalanche will come in hot and heavy. The week-long COVID-19 protocol break halted their momentum. They were missing Mikko Rantanen, Philipp Grubauer, Joonas Donskoi, Bowen Byram and now Brandon Saad from the lineup. They were playing their third goaltender. After clinching the playoffs the regular season is now boring. The Blues have more to play for. They are sick of playing the same team four times in a row. On and on. The reality is the best players were flat out not good enough. Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Andre Burakovsky and Gabe Landeskog were each on the ice for the all three even strength goals against and it was no accident.
It is not easy to balance preparation for the playoffs with the appropriate rest and self-preservation but falling into poor habits and disappearing competitive spirit is not the answer. It is possible the Avalanche could still meet the Blues in the first round and these last two games against them show just how difficult the playoffs are going to be against any opponent. With eight games against the San Jose Sharks and LA Kings remaining it is imperative the Avalanche find and fine-tune their game again.
One injury replacement who is likely staying in the lineup even if anything resembling full-health is achieved would be Patrik Nemeth. It has only been three games and he’s still getting used to his old team again but there should be legitimate concern over if the Avalanche have just evolved past the type of player and level of speed he can provide. A big test for the coaching staff is to avoid old habits themselves and have the willingness to stick to their identity even if it means using their deadline additions as more auxiliary depth.
One final game on the road trip in Vegas on Wednesday, April 28th at 7:30pm MT televised nationally on NBCSN.