• In a game that was closer than the score looks, the Avalanche beat the Blues 5-2.
• There are some injuries to watch from Blues – Avs Game 3. Most prominently, Jordan Binnington left and did not return following a collision with Nazem Kadri, forcing Ville Husso in net. Samuel Girard was hospitalized after a hard hit, and will not return during the playoffs due to a broken sternum.
• While Saturday only had that Blues – Avalanche Game 3, Sunday is as packed as you’ll get this deep into the playoffs, with three different contests.
• Although the Penguins have other fish to fry in Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, they made a key offseason decision with a Bryan Rust contract extension.
Game 3: Avalanche 5, Blues 2 (COL leads 2-1)
After Game 3, both the Blues and Avalanche must hope for the best possible health luck. Early on, Jordan Binnington was injured during a collision with Nazem Kadri, with Ville Husso remaining in net for the remainder of Game 3.
Being that it was Kadri, people will wonder if it was nefarious. Either way, Binnington was shaken up.
Ville Husso is now in between the pipes for the @StLouisBlues after Jordan Binnington left with an injury on the play below. ⤵️#StanleyCup | #stlblues pic.twitter.com/8oaGHdPHH2
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 22, 2022
Could Husso be in net instead of Binnington for Blues – Avalanche Game 4 and beyond? That answer is not yet clear.
Nothing definitive, but hearing from good sources that the Blues' fear tonight is they could lose Jordan Binnington for multiple weeks with a possible knee sprain. #stlblues @TheAthletic
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 22, 2022
Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girardi was hospitalized after an Ivan Barbashev hit:
Wow, this Ivan Barbashev hit on Sam Girard. 😳 pic.twitter.com/f8dfttsRMS
— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) May 22, 2022
The Avalanche ultimately announced that Samuel Girard will be out for the rest of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs after suffering a broken sternum. Tough news.
Girard broke his sternum and will be out the rest of playoffs, per Jared Bednar.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) May 22, 2022
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 Second Round schedule, TV info]
Both injuries happened early in Game 3 of Blues – Avalanche. People will probably nitpick a goal or two allowed by Husso. It’s also worth noting that Girard is a key Avs defenseman, so other Avalanche blueliners needed to carry heavier burdens.
That 5-2 score does not tell the true story. Instead, this was a very close game.
For every sign that the Avalanche are a team that’s tougher to slow in the playoffs than, say, the Panthers …
Cale Makar had 10 5v5 zone exit attempts tonight and all 10 of them were clean exits with possession
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 22, 2022
… It was also clear that the Blues had a real chance in Game 3 against the Avalanche. Consider certain underlying metrics. While Natural Stat Trick noted the Avalanche having a 9-6 advantage over the Blues at 5-on-5 in Game 3, St. Louis narrowly won the expected goals battle in that area (2.05 to 1.89).
Although it’s true that the Blues are better equipped to trade goals with the Avalanche than they were last year, that’s still probably not a winning formula. Keeping things fairly low-event seems like the wiser path to victory.
No doubt, it stings to lose Jordan Binnington, especially when he’s resembling the version of Jordan Binnington who helped the Blues win their first Stanley Cup. That said, Ville Husso enjoyed a much stronger regular season. Maybe Husso isn’t the superior choice — that could come down to what you weigh the most, or your taste in a goalie — but he’s a better Plan B than almost any other team can muster.
If the Blues can limit the Avalanche’s attack, and mix in enough offense of their own, then there’s a path forward.
Of course, the always-dangerous Cale Makar reminds St. Louis and other potential opponents that containing the Avs remains easier said than done.
Three Stars from Avalanche – Blues Game 3
1. Nazem Kadri, Avalanche
There are pest/tough guys who don’t do much beyond delivering controversial hits. Then there are those pests who can be the difference on the ice and scoreboard while getting your blood boiling.
Nazem Kadri is absolutely one of those “pests.”
That pesty presence carried over post-game, as Kadri believes Binnington threw a water bottle at him during an interview:
"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
However you feel about Kadri’s culpability in the Jordan Binnington collision, the bottom line is that he made a big impact on Game 3. (Not just, uh, in the most physically literal sense.)
Kadri tipped-in a Cale Makar shot to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead in Game 3, and then bought the Avs some leeway against the Blues by assisting on a 3-1 goal by Artturi Lehkonen. Eventually, that would stand as the game-winning goal. Lehkonen also scored an empty-netter, so it was a nice night for him, too.
2. Big Avalanche names like Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen
Let’s throw the net wide to include a handful of key Avalanche players who delivered.
By the eye test, Cale Makar was once again arguably the Avalanche’s biggest driving force against the Blues. Yet he “only” managed an assist. You may, then, prefer the night Mikko Rantanen enjoyed. The winger collected two secondary assists, yet he played a pretty big role in breaking out the puck to help Colorado beat Ville Husso (who was trying to empty the net, and then realized too late that he couldn’t quite get back to it).
3. Ryan O'Reilly, Blues
While top Avalanche players achieved enough to win Game 3, Ryan O’Reilly was a key reason why the Blues had a fighting chance.
Most obviously, ROR continues to contribute offensively, collecting a goal and an assist. He was a beast in the faceoff circle, winning 15 draws and losing merely seven. And that last stat gives you a glimpse of the bigger picture. Ryan O’Reilly’s all-around work is what makes him a prime playoff performer.
By matching O’Reilly against Nathan MacKinnon, the Blues were able to stifle that elite attack to an impressive degree. Late goals inflated the difference in this one, as St. Louis had a real chance against Colorado. O’Reilly was the main reason why.
SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 3 (TBL leads 2-0): Panthers at Lightning, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
Game 3 (CAR leads 2-0): Hurricanes at Rangers, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 3 (Series tied 1-1): Flames at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
• Avalanche vs. Blues
• Lightning vs. Panthers
• Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
• NHL Second Round predictions
• Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.