Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues Game 2: Three keys to victory for Colorado – The Denver Post

Will the Avalanche begin 6-0 in the postseason for the second consecutive year? Colorado swept Nashville in the first round and defeated St. Louis, 3-2, in overtime in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series on Tuesday at Ball Arena.

Here are three keys for Colorado in Game 2 on Thursday night:

1. Clean line changes. St. Louis’ tying goal that forced overtime in Game 1 came on a bad Avalanche line change, its third such costly mistake of the playoffs. The Blues were on the power play and Colorado made a four-man change with no weakside defense. Defenseman Sam Girard cleared the puck out of Colorado’s zone but only to St. Louis’ blueline, where defenseman Justin Faulk quickly passed it up ice to the Avs’ blueline to forward Jordan Kyrou, who skated in and scored while four fresh Avs defenders were scrambling for position. “Trust me, we’ve talked about that a lot,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We have to have a couple of guys on the weak side … It’s a discipline thing. You’re trying to change all the time to put your teammates’ next line out and in a good situation. Not a bad one. If you’re doing the opposite, it’ll cost you.”

2. Mikko Rantanen. The elite right winger led Colorado with 36 goals in the regular season. He’s still looking for his first goal of the postseason. Rantanen has six assists in five games but his usual knack of scoring goals has disappeared. He said before Game 4 in Nashville that he’s just in a rut and he won’t lose confidence in his ability. The Avs wholeheartedly believe that, and when Rantanen gets off the schneid, the club will greatly benefit. Rantanen had a postseason-high four shots in Game 1 against the Blues — not including a first-period laser that caromed off the right post where it met the crossbar. Rantanen has 18 goals and 58 points in 48 career playoff games. He’s a proven clutch performer and Colorado could greatly use that in Game 2.

3. Individual sacrifice/faceoffs. The Avs need more of what defenseman Sam Girard provided in Game 2. Girard blocked a team-high four shots. No other teammate had more than one. Colorado dominated the game but St. Louis sacrificed to keep it close. The Blues blocked 27 shots to the Avs’ 13. Blues defensemen Calle Rosen and Niko Mikkola and forward Pavel Buchnevich each had a team-high four blocked shots. “It’s a big part of it,” Bednar said of the willingness to block shots that inherently cause pain — even to the padded areas. “You got to sacrifice in order to win hockey games at this point of the year.” The Avs also need more of what they did in the faceoff circle in Game 1. They won 34 of 53 draws (64%), led by Nazem Kadri (8 of 9), J.T. Compher (6 of 7) and Gabe Landeskog (5 of 6).

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