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Can Blues’ versatility, depth push them through Game 6 vs. Avs?

Can Blues' versatility, depth push them through Game 6 vs. Avs?

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 23: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 Ryan O’Reilly #90 David Perron #57 and Brayden Schenn #10 of the St. Louis Blues speak prior to the start of the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Enterprise Center on March 23, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

In praising the star power of the Avalanche, you risk dismissing the high-end elements of the Blues.

In Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche do indeed boast the two biggest stars in this series. Even so, the Blues roll out some big names of their own.

Ryan O’Reilly’s won a Selke Trophy, a Conn Smythe, and has his own Great Clips commercial. Vladimir Tarasenko set a career-high with 82 points this season, and authored his sixth season with at least 33 goals (34 in 2021-22). David Perron’s in the top 20 in playoff scoring since 2018-19, producing one more point (38 vs. 37) than the much-more-hyped Mark Stone in the same (46) number of playoff games.

Yet ... yes, it’s the sheer depth of the Blues’ scoring options that gives them a chance to hang with the Avalanche in Game 6 (8 p.m. ET), and possibly keep this Second Round series going.

Deep array of offensive options gives Blues a shot vs. Avalanche in series, and Game 6

Take a look at what could end up being the Blues’ lineup for Game 6 against the Avalanche:

With Torey Krug still out, an already-sneaky-leaky Blues defense corps looks that much more vulnerable.

While Ryan O’Reilly will likely be deployed with the hope of slowing Nathan MacKinnon down, the Blues’ best bet may come down to outgunning the Avalanche. That’s where that depth comes in.

  • Ideally, that first line could draw close to even. Brandon Saad’s viable enough to not drag O’Reilly and Perron down.

[Avalanche, Kuemper hoping to bounce back heading into Game 6]

  • Did Robert Thomas regain his confidence with two big goals in Game 5? Those were his first two goals of the playoffs. He had gone pointless before that in the Blues - Avalanche series, was on a five-game pointless streak, and had only managed an assist during an eight-game span. Considering Robert Thomas’ 77 points in 72 regular-season games, it would be a big deal if he got going. (It’s also a testament to the Blues that they’ve hung in there while he was on such a cold streak.)
  • Naturally, Tarasenko’s on that line, but don’t forget about Pavel Buchnevich. Truly, he was one of the best steals of the offseason, and he’s exceeded expectations with point-per-game production in the regular season and the playoffs. He gives St. Louis another potential “game-breaker.”

  • With all that firepower in the top six, the Blues still roll out a third line featuring Brayden Schenn and 2022 NHL All-Star Jordan Kyrou. Like O’Reilly, Perron, and now Thomas, Kyrou’s scored some big playoff goals already.

Granted, *both* teams are deep

During the regular season, four Blues players scored at least 75 points. They boasted two 30+ goal scorers, and nine crossed the 20-goal mark.

Now, it’s crucial to avoid calling the Avalanche shallow and the Blues deep. Really, both Central Division teams can hurt you in multiple ways. After all, the Avalanche featured four players with at least 86 points this season, and none of those players appeared in more than 77 games. (Colorado also had a lot of 20+ goal scorers: seven of them.)

Instead, the point is just that the Blues can present enough offensive options to at least keep the Avalanche on their toes. Especially when the Blues can deploy those weapons as part of the hottest power play in the postseason.

Ultimately, the Blues still face a challenge in trying to keep up with the Avalanche in Game 6, another night on the brink of elimination. Unlike top-heavy teams, St. Louis doesn’t necessarily need to ask the same couple of stars to tilt the balance.

Each of their top three lines present at least one forward who could make the difference, and force a Game 7.