Two games into this West Division series and the Avalanche hold a commanding 2-0 series lead after a pair of dominant performances. Now the series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3, where the Blues are in a must-win position to avoid being down by a crippling deficit.
Here is a closer look at the series so far, the players to watch on Friday, and a free pick to win. Being on the road doesn’t change how much of a favorite Colorado is at -235, while St. Louis is a +194 underdog at home.
Game 1 saw a tight contest through two despite the Avs’ heavy shot advantage. Defenseman Cale Makar scored a play late in the first to give Colorado the lead, only to be answered by St. Louis Jordan Kyrou. However, the third period was all Avalanche, as center Nathan MacKinnon’s two goals plus one from left-wing Gabriel Landeskog gave Colorado a 4-1 win.
The biggest difference in the game was in shots on goal, where Colorado had 50 compared to St. Louis’ 23. Jordan Binnington made 46 saves on 49 shots (the net was empty late), while Philipp Grubauer held it down with 22 saves on 23 shots.
Game 2 had the early makings of a blowout, as the Avs were up 3-0 halfway through the game after two goals from right-wing Joonas Donskoi and another goal from MacKinnon, this time on the power play. The Blues brought it to within one though, during the third after centers, Sammy Blais and Brayden Schenn each beat Grubauer. St. Louis even brought it to a one-goal game again in the third when left-wing Mike Hoffman scored 15 seconds after MacKinnon scored his second of the night.
However, the hopes ended soon after for St. Louis. Colorado closed the game out with two empty-net goals, one of which was MacKinnon, to complete his hat trick and give him five total goals this series. The final score was 6-4; however, the shot totals finished tied at 35.
Who to Watch
Obviously, for Colorado, MacKinnon has been the biggest story so far. The former MVP candidate has five goals and a pair of assists in just two games and is tied for the team lead with a +5 rating. Fellow top-line forwards Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen each have four assists, with Rantanen still looking for his first goal of the series after leading the team with 30 of them in the regular season.
For St. Louis, it’s more about who hasn’t been scoring. While center Robert Thomas and d-man Torey Krug lead the teams in points with two assists each, a number of key players have been held without a point. Center Ryan O’Reilly, wingers Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, along with d-man Justin Faulk, are all still in search of their first point of the series.
Even though the Blues finished the year with a pedestrian 12-11-5 record at home, they went 7-0-3 when having the lead after the first period. The Avs, on the other hand, went a solid 17-9-2 on the road this season but led after the first period in just 10 of those 28 contests. A good start in the first period for the Blues can go a long way.
The Avs have been the better team in the first two games, but the Blues have to be encouraged by their play in the last two periods of Game 2. They are hoping to carry that over to the start of Game 3, where as mentioned above, Colorado has stumbled a bit to open games on the road.
The number is too high to take the Avs on the moneyline, but the Blues really need to get some additional scoring help from their top-six before I feel comfortable with them to win straight up. But I could see this game being closer than the first two, which leads me to bet St. Louis on the puck line to at the very least keep it within one.
Pick: Blues +1.5 (-142)
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