ST. LOUIS – Now that was a GREAT win for the Colorado Avalanche. And, you know it’s a great win when opposing players are throwing objects at you when the game is over, in the locker room hallway.
That was playoff grit. That was desire. That was toughness. That was just a great win in a hostile barn tonight for the Avs, 5-2 over the St. Louis Blues. Home-ice advantage – back to the Colorado Avalanche hockey club.
The Avs started out with a shaky, nervous look, but, starting with a Logan O’Connor walk-in goal on Blues replacement goalie Ville Husso, the Avs simply played like they wanted it more than the Blues and got the much-deserved win. The Avs can take a 3-1 Round 2 series lead with a win Monday night here at Enterprise Center.
So many things about this game, but let’s start off with some bad news: Sam Girard will miss the rest of the playoffs with a broken sternum, after taking a hard hit into the boards in the first period from Ivan Barbeshev. Girard actually went to the hospital for evaluation, and the bad news came back quickly. I’m expecting Jack Johnson to step back into a top-six role for Game 4 in place of Girard.
The Blues have a 10-alarm injury on their hands, too. Goalie Jordan Binnington left the game just a little more than seven minutes into the first period and didn’t return, favoring his left leg. He was run into, on a combination of Nazem Kadri and former Avs defenseman Calle Rosen barreling into him as they battled for a loose puck in front.
This is going to be all that anyone talks about the next couple of days. Especially because, apparently, Binnington might have thrown a water bottle at Kadri while he was going a postgame interview on TNT. Look, see for yourself:
"Not sure if he just threw a water bottle at me" 😳
Nazem Kadri appears to have a water bottle thrown at him while discussing the collision with Binnington 🔎 pic.twitter.com/6XLbAdxEEm
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) May 22, 2022
— Liam McHugh (@liam_mchugh) May 22, 2022
Let’s not kid ourselves here: The entire complexion of the game changed after the Binnington injury. The Blues looked shocked and stunned when Binner left the ice. But that’s on THEM in this case. Ville Husso played much of the season for the Blues, while Binner sat on the bench. But, the Blues’ body language just sagged when he came in, and, to their credit, the Avs took quick advantage.
The Blues had a 1-0 lead at the time, but O’Connor burst in and beat Husso in close to tie it. The Avs played a great second period in taking a 3-1 lead, starting with a tip by Kadri of a Cale Makar shot, and Artturi Lehkonen beat Husso from the short side on a 2-on-1 break-in with Bo Byram, for a 3-1 lead.
Ryan O’Reilly (of course) made it a 3-2 game with a last-minute goal in the second. But the Avs really came out with a great work ethic in the third period. They were on pucks, with small defensive gaps, and just didn’t give the Blues much offensively. Still, the Avs had a hard time getting that key insurance goal, until they were able to do it after the Blues muffed the transition of taking Husso off the ice for the extra attacker. The Avs stole the puck in the neutral zone and Gabe Landeskog had an empty-net bunny to salt the game away, with Lehkonen getting one more empty-netter.
Blues coach Craig Berube, never one to say anything complimentary about the other team after a loss, made the following comment about the Kadri-Binnington collision:
“Look at Kadri’s reputation, that’s all I’ve got to say,” Berube told reporters in his post-game podium talk.
That drew an uncharacteristically angry response from Jared Bednar:
“It’s either a legal play or it’s not,” Bednar said. “The D and Naz are both going for a loose puck. Unfortunate, but … a legal play.”
Here’s what Kadri said about it:
“I just see a loose puck. Just kind of sitting behind him. The defenseman kind of collided with me and pushed me into him. If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t think I would have touched (Binnington) at all,” Kadri said. “I think we definitely earned that one. I just try to compete. If they take that personally, that’s on them.”
Yes, they did. The Blues were outworked on their home ice by the Avs after roughly the 15-minute mark of the first period and, frankly, I didn’t think it was even close after that. The Avs outscored the Blues 5-1 after that early Parayko goal. They have home-ice back, the Blues don’t have Binnington anymore (I’m hearing it’s going to be at least a few days before he can even think of playing again) and life is good again in Avs Nation.
But hear me now and believe me later, Avs Nation: Put this game behind you. Celebrate it tonight, but be ready to tough out a really hard Game 4 Monday night. And, don’t be at all surprised if “Chief” Berube and his aging team try some really dirty stuff in Game 4.
This Blues team isn’t going to go out quietly I don’t believe.
But we, again, found out who the better team is between these two, tonight. That was the Colorado Avalanche.
Great win for the Avs.
NOTES, THOUGHTS, OBSERVATIONS
- Again, I expect Jack Johnson to get the call to replace Girard. No question about it, to me anyway: he deserves it. He played 74 regular-season games for the Avs. He deserves to get the first call. I would be shocked if Jared Bednar didn’t put him in. But maybe – maybe – Bednar will want more of an offensive presence from the back end in place of Girard in the lineup, and go with Ryan Murray. I doubt it, though. And it’s not like Jack Johnson can’t do something offensively now and then either. He scored the first Avs goal of the season, let’s not forget lol.
- Flew into St. Louis this morning, and I think we might have gone through something of a twister. Believe me, if you are a nervous flyer, you wouldn’t have wanted to be on my flight this morning. But I’m still here, in one piece (and, I have more people to thank for donating to the Avs Travel Trip Jar for helping make this trip easier on the wallet. You guys and gals are the best, and I mean it).
- Let’s give Bednar some serious credit here. Putting Logan O’Connor in for Nico Sturm really paid off tonight.
- Geez, if Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon can just put up their normal point production the rest of the way, this series should be over in five games.
- I think Rantanen is pressing too much. He seems nervous, for some reason, out there. But he’s the guy, to me anyway, who could bust this thing wide open if he just gets his scoring confidence back. He’s due.
- MacKinnon? Trying to do too much again. Stickhandling through five guys doesn’t work as well in the playoffs as the regular season. That said, I thought he played pretty well away from the puck tonight.
- Bednar said he thought the Barbashev hit on Girard was a “hockey” hit and not dirty.