2 Storylines: Blues
Binnington Sidelined Rest of Series
The Blues will need to play the rest of their series against the Avalanche without their Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, Jordan Binnington, who suffered a lower-body injury during Game 3 on Saturday night. He played only 6:45 of the game before Avalanche center Nazem Kadri and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen crashed the net, seeking a loose puck. The team has since called up goaltender Charlie Lindgren from the Springfield Thunderbirds under emergency conditions to backup Ville Husso.
Binnington was relieved by Husso, who surrendered four goals on 23 shots in the 5-2 loss. After entering the postseason as the number one goaltender, Husso was replaced ahead of Game 3 against the Minnesota Wild in the first round and has not started a game since.
When asked about the injury, head coach Craig Berube only said, “Look at Kadri’s reputation. That’s all I’ve got to say.” His comments referred to Kadri’s controversial postseason play, who has multiple postseason suspensions, including an eight-game ban for an illegal check to the head on Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in the 2021 Playoffs.
In his defense, Kadri stated: “I just see a loose puck, really. It was just kind of sitting behind him. Their defenseman collided with me and pushed me into him. Had that not been the case, I don’t think I would have hit him at all.”
After going down 2-1 in their series against the Wild, the Blues found new life and rode the stellar performance of Binnington into the second round. The team will now need Husso to reclaim his regular-season magic that resulted in a 25-7-6 record with a 2.56 goals-against average (GAA) and .919 save percentage (SV%).
Blues’ Balanced Scoring Missing in Postseason
As one of the most well-balanced scoring forward groups in the postseason, the Blues have yet to see goals from four forwards who produced at least 20 goals during the regular season. Robert Thomas, Ivan Barbashev, Pavel Buchnevich, and Brayden Schenn combined for 100 goals during the regular season, but through nine postseason games, they have combined for zero goals, 16 assists, and a minus-11 rating.
Matched up against the top team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis club has been successful at suppressing the Avalanche’s goalscoring abilities. However, they have also been slowed in their own scoring abilities, with a -0.44 rate compared to their regular season 3.77 goals-per-game average. Should the trend continue, the club will have a hard time keeping up with a Colorado squad that averages 4.29 goals per game.
2 Storylines: Avalanche
Avalanche Lose Girard for Postseason
The Avalanche will be without defenseman Samuel Girard for the rest of the postseason after he suffered a broken sternum in Game 3. Less than two minutes into the game, he took a heavy hit along the boards from Barbashev that resulted in the defenseman’s exit, and he was transported to the hospital for further evaluation. Colorado will have a tough time replacing Girard, who averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game.
“Looking back on it, I mean, it’s a heavy collusion. He just catches him in a bad spot,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “But I thought it was legal check, to be honest with you. He kind of goes in on his head side, but he got a lot of body there. [Girard] was turned the wrong way, and he went in awkward, and it was a heavy check. Unfortunate, but to be honest, I think it was a legal check.”
The team will have several options to replace him, including veteran defensemen Jack Johnson, Kurtis MacDermid, and Ryan Murray. The Avalanche coaching staff can move forward with experience in Johnson, who played 74 regular-season games this season, registering a goal and eight assists. While the 35-year-old defenseman may not be the fans’ top choice, he brings 30 games of playoff experience to the table, the most of the three options.
“Whoever fills that spot is going to be ready,” defenseman Devon Toews said. “Most of those guys were regulars for us at certain times of the year. Whoever steps in is going to be ready” (from ‘Avalanche observations: Replacing Samuel Girard, Cale Makar finding his legs, more,’ The Athletic, 5/22/22).
Depth Scoring Stepping Up
Logan O’Connor, a healthy scratch for the first two games of the series, opened the scoring of Game 3 in St. Louis. O’Connor has been viable depth scoring and penalty-killing option for the team and quickly used it to his advantage. Following a penalty by teammate Josh Manson, O’Connor received a pass from Manson and quickly beat Husso to tie the score at 1-1.
The Blues have done well to prevent scoring chances from high-profile forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. However, they have been met with secondary waves of attack by Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin, and Artturi Lehkonen, who have a combined four goals in three games. St. Louis will need to either do a better job at preventing goals from all members of the Avalanche squad or receive additional scoring support from their team if they wish to advance to the next round.
Players to Watch
St. Louis: Justin Faulk – Four assists in the last five games
Colorado: Cale Makar – 1 goal and 6 assists in his last five games
Projected Line Combinations
St. Louis Blues
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Pavel Buchnevich||Ryan O’Reilly||David Perron|
|Brandon Saad||Robert Thomas||Jordan Kyrou|
|Ivan Barbashev||Brayden Schenn||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Alexi Toropchenko||Tyler Bozak||Scott Perunovich|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Nick Leddy||Colton Parayko|
|Calle Rosen||Justin Faulk|
|Niko Mikkola||Robert Bortuzzo|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Valeri Nichushkin||Nathan MacKinnon||Mikko Rantanen|
|Gabriel Landeskog||Nazem Kadri||Artturi Lehkonen|
|Andre Burakovsky||JT Compher||Nicolas Abue-Kubel|
|Andrew Cogliano||Darren Helm||Logan O’Connor|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Devon Toews||Cale Makar|
|Jack Johnson||Josh Manson|
|Bowen Byram||Erik Johnson|
Blues’ Next Game: Wednesday, May 25 at Colorado Avalanche (TBD)
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.