Hold your hearses. The St. Louis Blues are not dead yet.
This game tonight so eerily resembled Game 7, Round 1 of the playoffs, in 2014, it might have well have been played at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (that’s the “Shining” hotel, kids). The Colorado Avalanche in 2014 had four one-goal leads in Game 7 against the Wild, including a one-goal lead with under two minutes left, before losing that lead and the game, 5-4 in overtime.
The Colorado Avalanche tonight had leads of 3-0 and 4-3, in the final two minutes, but lost 5-4 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues. The only difference between that night eight years ago and tonight: this was a Game 5, in the second round. The Avs still have two more chances to advance to the third round, instead of having their season over.
But, yeah, this gag job was worse than the last one. Much worse.
How Andy Dufresne ever escaped Shawshank Prison, and how the Colorado Avalanche ever lost this hockey game, I’ll never know. I can’t believe the Avs actually lost this game. The Avs were just miles and miles better than the Blues for the first 40 minutes and, despite blowing that 3-0 lead, got a brilliant Nathan MacKinnon goal to go up 4-3 with under two minutes left.
Ball Arena has rarely, if ever, been louder. Then, the Avs had about three chances to get an empty-net goal, but failed every time. The final time, captain Gabe Landeskog made a low-IQ hockey play and failed to shoot the puck at an empty net with about 45 seconds left. Instead, Landeskog skated over the red line, to avoid a potential icing violation, but he got stripped of the puck. Landeskog, in hindsight, should have tried to shoot at the empty net. Even if you miss, you still have a faceoff back in your end, and you can better set a defensive scheme from there. Instead, the Avs scrambled around and got out of position on the steal of Landeskog, and Darcy Kuemper allowed a juicy rebound for a Rob Thomas goal. 4-4.
Then, Kuemper got beat on a long shot from the point in OT. Game over. On to St. Louis, for Game 6. Not only is this series still alive, so are the ghosts of the last three years in the second round. Not to mention, the ghost of Game 7, 2014. Oh, and did we mention that Darcy Kuemper was part of that Game 7 in 2014 too, and wasn’t the winning goalie for the Wild (he left the game, injured)?
“He (Kuemper) was like a lot of guys tonight. Not good enough,” a stunned Avs coach, Jared Bednar, said.
MacKinnon’s brilliant effort – a hat trick – was utterly wasted. There’s no way the Avs should have lost this game, but they still found a way. The Blues deserve credit for never quitting, but the Avs made things so much easier for them. They got all conservative again, when up 3-0. That’s not their game. They never do well when they sit back and get conservative, but they did. That probably falls on Bednar, whose teams still have a bad habit of doing that.
Instead of pushing the pace more and just finishing the Blues off, they allowed a couple of cheapie goals to make it a 3-2 game. Then, you could just feel the Avs freeze up from there. Everybody started getting nervous, and the Blues took advantage. They kept pucks in after failed Avs clearouts and crashed the net, beating Kuemper and tardy D-men to pucks.
I’ll admit, I was already looking ahead to Edmonton or Calgary for the next round, just like the rest of you. But once the Blues tied it late in the third, I already thought it was over. The Avs just choked the game away, plain and simple.
“It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy,” Landeskog said.
Yeah, sorry Cap, but this game should have been an easy win, after a 3-0 lead. The more accurate assessment would have been: “We blew it. How did that happen?”
Said MacKinnon: “We’ve got to move on, like Gabe said. Come back and win Game 6 on the road. It’s a fun opportunity for us. Hopefully everything happens for a reason. We’ve got to go get this done, but yeah, it should make our team a little harder, a little more grittier in these situations. [You] can’t win every series in four or five. They have a great team and we’re excited to go get a huge challenge in St. Louis and try to close out a series.”
They still have two more chances not to choke this series away.
Otherwise, it’s going to be the longest summer of their lives.
Terry Frei and Kelsey Hammond contributed to this report