Since the 2017-18 season the Colorado Avalanche have gone from being an exciting, young up-and-coming team, to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and top-tier NHL team. They drafted and developed a great core, utilized their salary cap space to build a deep, talented roster around Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen, and made some sensational, franchise-changing trades. They have hit home runs with most of their roster transactions over the past five years.
All of that talent and regular season success means there are going to be high expectations. Those expectations are a sky-high level this season and another step forward is going to be expected. They are now at at a point where just simply making the playoffs and winning a round is not going to be viewed as enough.
For the past four years they have had consistently topped out at the Second Round, losing at this point in each of the past three seasons (with a first-round loss before that). But they enter Wednesday’s Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET) with a chance to finally break through that ceiling and advance to the franchise’s first Western Conference Final since the 2002 season, and for the first time with this core of players.
So far, this Avalanche team certainly looks like it is playing at a different level than recent teams. They enter Wednesday having won seven of their first eight playoff games this season, and have been completely dominant in doing so. They play at a different speed than everybody else, and you not only see it with the eye test when you watch them, but the numbers are absolutely dominant so far.
As of Wednesday they are controlling 61% of the total shot attempts during 5-on-5 play, have close to a 60% share of scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, and expected goals, and have outscored their opponents by a 24-12 margin. Expand it to all situations, and they have a plus-16 goal differential this postseason (36 goals for, 20 goals against) and have won five of their games by multiple goals.
In short, they have been completely dominant this postseason on an individual and team level.
For the Blues to have a chance to extend this series, or even come all the way back and win it, they are going to need to reach a level we have not seen from them in this series, or from anybody against Colorado this season on a consistent basis. They are also going to need Ville Husso to rediscover his regular season form.
Husso has struggled mightily this postseason and has managed only an .884 save percentage in his five starts, and has lost each of his past four following a Game 1 shutout in the First Round against the Minnesota Wild. The Blues are going to have to ride with him for the remainder of this series as Jordan Binnington remains sidelined following his Game 3 collision with Nazem Kadri.
The Blues tried to make Kadri a focal point in Game 4, only to have that backfire spectacularly. Kadri ended up recorded a hat trick in the win, while the Blues completely imploded on themselves in the middle portion of the game.
That sort of effort is not going to be good enough to win an individual game, and is certainly not going to be good enough to win three consecutive games.
COLORADO AVALANCHE v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (COL leads 3-1) Game 1 – Avalanche 3, Blues 2 (OT) Game 2 – Blues 4, Avalanche 1 Game 3 – Avalanche 5, Blues 2 Game 4 – Avalanche 6, Blues 3 Game 5 – May 25: Blues at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports) *Game 6 – May 27: Avalanche at Blues, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports) *Game 7 – May 29: Blues at Avalanche, TBD
PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews • Hurricanes vs. Rangers • Avalanche vs. Blues • Flames vs. Oilers • Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round • NHL Second Round predictions