Two years ago, the St. Louis Blues had the fewest points in the league nearly halfway through the season. They got on a roll and didn’t stop until they won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
This season, in a condensed schedule, St. Louis was in danger of missing the playoffs before finishing 8-1-3 in their final 12 games and grabbing the last seed in the West Division.
Now the fourth-seeded Blues are set to take on the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. The best-of-seven series against the Colorado Avalanche begins in Denver on Monday night with Game 1.
Playoffs always are filled with drama, but things got started before the puck dropped on this series. It was announced Saturday that St. Louis leading scorer David Perron was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list and his availability for the series is in question.
Perron is the third Blues player to be put on the list in the past week, joining defenseman Jake Walman and forward Nathan Walker. All three remained on the list on Sunday, and Perron wasn’t at practice.
Being placed on the restricted list does not mean Perron tested positive for the virus. He could be on it for contact tracing or may have had a false positive test. He would need two negative tests in 24 hours to be eligible to come off and play.
Losing Perron is a double blow for St. Louis (27-20-9, 63 points). Perron had 19 goals and 39 assists for a team-leading 58 points in 56 games, including two goals and an assist in the 7-3 win over Minnesota on Thursday, but his contribution as an emotional leader is valuable, too.
“He’s been a very consistent player the whole season long,” head coach Craig Berube said after Thursday’s game. “He comes to play every night. He does a lot of good things and he’s a real leader, too. Very vocal guy and emotional.”
While St. Louis is without its best player, Colorado (39-13-4, 82) is getting back its top guy and two others as well. Nathan MacKinnon missed four of the final five games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury, but he practiced Saturday and Sunday and should be centering the top line Monday night.
MacKinnon (20 goals, 45 assists) finished a point behind Mikko Rantanen for tops on the team.
“He’s such a big part of our hockey team, especially driving our offense,” head coach Jared Bednar said of MacKinnon. “To have him in for the start of the series would be what the doctor ordered.”
Veteran forward Brandon Saad, who won two Stanley Cups with Chicago, should play after missing the past 11 games with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Conor Timmins (ankle) also is expected to play.
Colorado won the season series between the teams, 5-3. St. Louis took the first game, the Avalanche the next five and the Blues the last two in St. Louis.
The teams already are engaging in some gamesmanship. Blues center and former Colorado player Ryan O’Reilly started the banter by saying, “We’re going to have some fun and we’re going to beat them.”
Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews responded, “They can say what they want, it’s out of our control. … I didn’t see any comments, I don’t follow along with anything, so none of that really bothers us.”
–Field Level Media