Avs seek answers after Blues make right moves, tie series

avs blues
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Nathan MacKinnon saw a team that just couldn’t get up the ice with its customary speed. Couldn’t generate quality scoring chances. Couldn’t get in a flow.

That wasn’t them.

“We were bad,” the Colorado forward acknowledged after a 4-1 loss to St. Louis that tied the second-round series at a game apiece. “Really bad.”

The Blues made all the right moves — from shuffling their lines to generate more offense to finding a way to clog up the middle and frustrate the Avalanche’s fast flyers.

It’s now Colorado’s move in this high stakes game of chess on ice, with the series shifting to St. Louis for Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

Everything’s on the table, too, for the top seed in the West. That includes line changes and possibly swapping out players.

“You’re not going to win in the playoffs if you don’t bring your best game,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Friday after practice. “We weren’t even close last night and it’s on us. …. Our best game is to be determined. We’re always in search of the perfect game.”

First order of business: Finding a way to create more space for MacKinnon and defenseman Cale Makar to maneuver. The Blues made it awfully difficult for them through the neutral zone in Game 2. Makar has yet to register a point after a three-goal, seven-assist series in a first-round sweep of Nashville.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

There’s also the curious case of Mikko Rantanen, who led the team in points during the regular season but has yet to score in these playoffs (he does have seven assists).

“Do you think Mikko is playing his best hockey that you’ve seen him play?” Bednar quizzed. “We need him to be an impact player.”

The Avalanche potentially could shake things up, possibly insert players like forwards Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor into the lineup.

Or they may just shuffle their lines similar to the way the Blues did before Game 2. St. Louis got instant results by pairing David Perron (two goals) with Pavel Buchnevich (two assists) and Ryan O’Reilly (one assist).

Colorado may reunite the top line of MacKinnon, Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog. But Bednar added he was pleased of the performance of Landeskog, Nazem Kadri and Artturi Lehkonen on a line. As for the mood of the squad, Bednar said the “guys are in good spirits.”

“They understand it’s about us mostly — mostly about us,” he added.

Still, there’s this always hovering over the Avs: They have lost in the second round in each of the last three postseasons. Last season, they were up 2-0 on Vegas before losing four straight.

“There’s no reason to panic,” defenseman Bowen Byram said. “You’re not going to win every game in the playoffs. They’re a good team. They know how to win. They’ve won before. … It’s just readjusting.”

Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington has befuddled Colorado. After stopping 51 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1, Binnington turned back 30 on Thursday. Since 2019, when he led the Blues to the Stanley Cup title as a rookie, he’s recorded a 2.74 goals-against average.

“He made saves when he needed to — big time,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.

Colorado’s mission is to take make sure he doesn’t track the puck as well as he has been through the opening two games.

[MORE: Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round]

“Goalies are so good now that if they’re going to see everything, they’re going to stop it,” Bednar said. “Breaking the goalie’s eyesight, even if it’s a moving screen, it’s uber important. … We’ve got to get into his eyes.”

Really, though, it had a lot to do with St. Louis not allowing Colorado to zip around the ice. The Blues did what most haven’t been able to do — slow them down.

They certainly wouldn’t mind a repeat performance at home.

“It’s playoff hockey. It’s going to come down to competing at a high level, winning battles, making sure you’re playing with good structure and every guy that’s dressed needs to be at his best,” Berube said. “That’s what we got (in Game 2). Every guy was at his best, in my opinion.”

For Colorado, a road win begins with quieting the crowd early. They won both games in Nashville by scoring first.

“We get to go on the road and hopefully steal one there, hopefully two,” MacKinnon said. “We’ve got to forget about (Game 2) and move on and get back to the way we can play.”

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (Series tied 1-1)
Game 1 – May 17: Avalanche 3, Blues 2 (OT)
Game 2 – May 19: Blues 4, Avalanche 1
Game 3 – May 21: Avalanche at Blues, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 23: Avalanche at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 5 – May 25: Blues at Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – May 27: Avalanche at Blues, TBD
*Game 7 – May 29: Blues at Avalanche, TBD

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    austonmatthews
    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.