The Wraparound: Kuemper, Avalanche struggle with leads vs. Blues

The Wraparound: Wisely or not, Avalanche stick with Kuemper vs. Blues
Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Check in with all of Thursday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action with the NHL Rink Wrap

• There was some controversy, but the Oilers ended “The Battle of Alberta” by eliminating the Flames.

• We’ve received some greybeard updates lately. Jaromir Jagr’s apparently leaning toward a 35th season, while Joe Thornton isn’t sure if he’ll retire or keep playing.

• Hard-hitting Capitals winger Tom Wilson recently underwent knee surgery, and is expected to need six-to-eight months to recover. If he falls in the low-end of that recovery window, he wouldn’t miss too much of next regular season.

During overtime in playoff hockey, you’ll see a wide variety of goals that decide games, or even series. Every now and then, you’ll see a beauty OT-winner. In plenty of cases, an overtime-winner can be a fluke, ugly, or a combination of the two.

Even a goalie with a “short memory” would struggle to shake off an overtime goal as bad as the one Darcy Kuemper allowed against Tyler Bozak.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

For much of this Second Round series, the focus has been on Blues goaltending, not that of the Avalanche.

Of course, that attention is justified. Nazem Kadri‘s collision injured Jordan Binnington, and some Blues fans reacted in absolutely vile ways toward Kadri. With Binnington sidelined, there have been serious ups and downs for Ville Husso. (Even though it’s all-too-easy to forget how great Husso was during the regular season.)

Through all this, it’s a credit to the Blues for not just bowing out against the Avalanche. More than once, the Blues rallied from considerable deficits, whether that meant a win against the Avalanche or a scare for Colorado. Most prominently, the Blues were down 3-0 early during that eventual Game 5 comeback.

Some of those comebacks boil down to the Blues’ fortitude. It’s also possible that the Avs need to consider their approach with leads. But, ultimately, there will be times when even a strong team like the Avalanche need goalie Darcy Kuemper to deliver.

[NHL Power Rankings: 2021-22 surprises]

And, despite Pavel Francouz putting up strong numbers — when healthy — it sounds like the Avalanche aren’t wavering when it comes to sticking with Kuemper.

By most measures, the Avalanche should have beat the Blues in Game 5. Consider, for instance, Money Puck’s “Deserve to Win O’Meter.”

According to Natural Stat Trick and other sites tracking underlying metrics, Husso and Kuemper have allowed more goals than expected during these playoffs. Clearly, that’s not ideal. But maybe the message to the Avs is to keep playing your game, and not get discouraged?

While Kuemper and the Avalanche have fumbled some leads against the Blues, they should take a look at how they handled situations through 82 games. Hockey Viz captures a team that still was creating offense and bottled up the opposite with leads.

Pretty impressive in a league where others may prefer to “turtle,” and let teams get back into games. Although the Blues (in the playoffs) present stiffer competition than all other 31 teams in the regular season, it’s still food for thought.

Beyond showing support (as they’ve done), perhaps the best thing the Avalanche can do for Kuemper is to keep the pressure on the Blues?

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (COL leads 3-2)

Game 1 – Avalanche 3, Blues 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Blues 4, Avalanche 1
Game 3 – Avalanche 5, Blues 2
Game 4 – Avalanche 6, Blues 3
Game 5 – Blues 5, Avalanche 4 (OT)
Game 6 – May 27: Avalanche at Blues, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 7 – May 29: Blues at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
• Hurricanes vs. Rangers
Avalanche vs. Blues
Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
NHL Second Round predictions

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