Sat, 22 Feb 2020

Avalanche look to carry modest momentum vs. Blues

Field Level Media
18 Jan 2020, 07:55 GMT+10

The Colorado Avalanche felt they were playing the right way but were getting a little unlucky while losing four in a row (0-2-2).

They finally broke through against San Jose on Thursday night, and now they look to carry that momentum into a matchup against the St. Louis Blues in Denver on Saturday afternoon.

While the Avalanche have been struggling, St. Louis has put more distance between itself and the rest of the Central Division. Since a 7-3 loss at Colorado on Jan. 2, the Blues have gone 4-0-2, including a 4-3 overtime home loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

St. Louis has 68 points, 10 more than the Avalanche, and continues to ride the momentum of winning the Stanley Cup last spring. But if there's one area to criticize, it's the team's performance with a two-man advantage.

The Blues had a 5-on-3 for 1 minute, 41 seconds against the Flyers and couldn't score, and it cost them a chance to extend their home winning streak to 10 games.

St. Louis has not scored with a two-man advantage this season, going 0-for-6, yet it ranks fourth in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 25.4 percent. Part of the reason for the lack of scoring in those situations is the Blues don't move put enough pressure on the defense and goaltender, passing around the zone without taking enough shots.

"I feel, just for myself, sometimes you get locked into that structure," Ryan O'Reilly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I think myself, you gotta be creative. That's just trusting my ability. We have two extra bodies there.

"It's just playing fast and everyone being ready. You could see (against Philadelphia), we had some decent looks but it wasn't -- there could've been more looks for sure."

Saturday's game will be the last before a nine-day break for St. Louis, but the city will be busy with the NHL All-Star Weekend starting Friday. Colorado's lone representative is center Nathan MacKinnon, and he was nearly joined by rookie defenseman Cale Makar, who was a finalist for the Last Man In voting.

Makar won't be playing in the All-Star Game, but he is making his mark in his first full season. He scored his 10th goal in the 4-0 win over San Jose on Thursday night, tying him with John-Michael Liles for goals by an Avalanche rookie defenseman.

More importantly, Makar's goal gave Colorado a 2-0 lead with 2.8 seconds left in the first period and some momentum to take into the second, when it built on the lead and cruised to the win after blowing third-period leads in the previous two games.

"For us now it's all mental," Makar said. "We get out to such good starts and in the third period we let teams back into it, so for us it's just remaining mentally stable throughout the whole game."

The Avalanche will likely be without forward Joonas Donskoi for the matchup. Donskoi has missed three games with a concussion suffered at the New York Rangers on Jan. 7. Although he has been practicing, he was still in a non-contact jersey Friday.

--Field Level Media

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