Well, at least none of you wasted any actual money on that one.
In the first game of the 2021 season, the Avs lost to the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, in front of a crowd of. … yeah, you get the joke. Even if there had been actual fans in the stands of the newly-named Ball Arena, they wouldn’t have had much to cheer about. After taking an early 1-0 lead and looking every bit juggernaut the preseason clippings said they’d be, the Avs just flat out outworked and outplayed for most of the rest of the game.
“We got outworked right from the start,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We were not ready to go. We were hoping it was going to be easier than it was and it showed. We got outworked all over the ice.”
Sure, it would be easy to shrug this game off as just one in the next 82, but this is a 56-game season. Certainly, no time to panic here, but every loss is magnified by about a third of what it would be in a normal season. The Avs get another crack at the Blues Friday night here at Ball.
It was certainly a night the Avs’ new second line of Gabe Landeskog, Nazem Kadri and Brandon Saad will want to forget. The line was on the ice for the first three Blues goals, all at even strength. Goalie Philipp Grubauer, making his first start since Game 1 of the second round against Dallas last summer, looked shaky at times. But it’s hard to pin the first two goals against on him, as turnovers and out-of-position teammates in front of him led to relatively easy goals against. The last two goals, which turned a 2-1 game into a 4-1 game?
Yeah, you can go ahead and pin some major blame on Grubauer for his play on them, including the fourth one, in which he misplayed a puck behind the net and was caught out of position.
Andre Burakovsky gave the Avs an early 1-0 lead, ripping a shot past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington on the power play. The Avs were outskating the Blues and almost upped the lead a couple more times. Then, mysteriously, everything just kind of fell apart from there.
The Blues may have been overlooked by some, especially after losing defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to Vegas. But new addition Torey Krug looked excellent opposite teammate Colton Parayko, and the Blues played well offensively despite the absence of veteran free-agent signee Mike Hoffman, who has some visa work issues still to sort out.
The Avs just couldn’t really sustain much of anything offensively after the Blues got the lead. The Blues started clogging the neutral zone, and sitting back more. The impatient Avs tried to do a little too much fancy-dan, one-on-one play, but that only usually gets you more entwined in St. Louis’ web.
“I didn’t love our power play,” Bednar said. “We didn’t look like we were in sync. I didn’t expect to love our power play because when you look at our five-on-five play, it wasn’t like we were going to all of a sudden show up on the power play.”
The Avs’ top line had some moments, with Nathan MacKinnon looking flashy and dangerous at times. Linemate Mikko Rantanen, though, struggled to make any real impact on the contest.
With no fans in the stands, the Ball crew had crowd noise piped in that resembled the decibel levels of a jet engine. By the last minutes of the third period, they pulled the plug.
Some game highlights: