The Blues and Jordan Binnington did everything they could, but the Avalanche broke through.
The Avalanche got three tallies from three different players to take a 4-1 win over the Blues on home ice in Game 1, using 50 shots on goal to get there. It easily could have gone the other way.
The Avalanche weren’t intimidated by an overly-physical Blues approach, and in fact seemed to turn it into their own advantage.
Norris candidate Cale Makar scored the first goal for Colorado, but it was quickly knotted up by Jordan Kyrou in the first period. After that, the Avalanche outshot the Blues 28-16, but Binnington stepped up to keep them off the scoreboard.
The Colorado offense couldn’t be held down for long, though.
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Nathan MacKinnon sat out in four of the last five games of the regular season, but looked like he didn’t miss a beat. He tallied 30 seconds into the third and picked up an assist as Colorado overwhelmed the Blues.
Makar and Devon Toews put out a strong defensive effort, and the Blues offense struggled to generate chances after trailing. Gabriel Landeskog scored 8:30 into the frame — sealing a Gordie Howe hat trick — and the Avalanche held on.
The other member of the Avalanche top line, Mikko Rantanen, finished with two helpers. He had his chances to find the net, too; he missed an essentially open net in the first period and was stuffed on a break-in by Binnington. He did enough to find the scoreboard, though, and contribute with the rest of the Avs’ top players.
Binnington, no matter the result, was tested like crazy. He dealt with 49 shots from the Avalanche — an avalanche of shots, if you will — and he stopped 46 of them, 41 coming at even strength.
St. Louis could take a game or two if he continues to play this well, but they don’t want to be giving up 50 shots a game. Clearly, the Avalanche are too tough, for that kind of an effort alone.
The Blues made an effort to keep physical against the skillful Avs, including a massive on-ice scrum at the end of the game that ended with a frustrated Binnington storming off the ice. Brayden Schenn went at it against Landeskog, en route to the latter’s Goride Howe hat trick, in the first period too.
St. Louis only managed single-digit shots in the first and third periods. Their lone breakthrough came from Kyrou, but they only challenged Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer with 23 shots on net.
It read like a game where the Blues thought they could out-muscle the Avalanche, but Colorado not only held their own, but perhaps won that matchup as well. The Blues were lacking David Perron, and their offense struggled for it.
That could have been part of the frustrated response from the Blues, a team that, when they are at their best, is used to frustrating their opponents. Colorado made it clear it won’t be having any of that, though; not only can the Avalanche out-score anyone, but they can take — and deliver — a hit as well.
Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.