They had an unplanned week off, were playing without their No. 1 goaltender and two of their top forwards, yet none of that stopped the Colorado Avalanche from clinching a playoff berth Thursday.
Instead, Colorado continued its hot streak with a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. Now the Avalanche will try to make it six consecutive victories over the Blues when the teams meet again Saturday afternoon at St. Louis.
Colorado (31-9-4, 66 points) had three games postponed due to a health and safety protocols, two against the Los Angeles Kings and one versus St. Louis. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer, forwards Joonas Donskoi and Mikko Rantanen remain on the COVID-19 protocol list and will not play Saturday.
Defenseman Bo Byram exited the list and rejoined the team. He did not play Thursday against the Blues and none of the other three will play the next two games.
Despite the pause – Colorado’s second of the season – the Avalanche continued to win. They are 18-1-2 since March 10 and became the second NHL team to clinch a postseason berth. They likely would have been the first had they not had recent games postponed.
Rantanen leads the team in goals with 26 but his replacement on the top line, Andre Burakovsky, didn’t miss a beat Thursday with two goals. Colorado didn’t show any rust, outshooting the Blues 29-27, and it killed off four straight power plays.
“You don’t really know how you’re going to feel coming off a little break like that when you’re not on the ice,” Tyson Jost said.
St. Louis (19-19-6, 44 points) has fallen out of a playoff spot but has three games in hand on Arizona, which is a point ahead for fourth place in the West Division. The Blues, two years removed from their first Stanley Cup championship, have gone 5-11-4 since March 6 and are struggling to keep pace.
They will need to lean on that experience to finish strong and reach the playoffs.
“We have a lot of veterans on this team that have won and have won a championship and we’ve got to have more composure in our game. That’s the bottom line,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said after Thursday’s loss. “Things are going to happen out there that are out of your control, but we’re not controlling what we can control. The mistakes we make that get put in our net, that’s all on us. That’s on us.”
The Blues have not figured out how to beat Colorado since opening night. They won that game 4-1 but have been outscored 21-8 in the last five games between the teams.
With the reshuffled schedule the Blues will finish their eight-game season series with the Avalanche on Saturday and Monday night. Both games are at St. Louis.
Things won’t get easier for the Blues down the stretch with five road games scheduled against two teams ahead of them in the standings – two against Vegas and three versus Minnesota.
St. Louis also plays the Wild two more times at home, on back-to-back nights to wrap up the regular season.
–Field Level Media