Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (92) handles the puck past Blues defenseman Vince Dunn (29). (Photo courtesy: Russell Lansford, Getty Images)
1/2: Blues/Avalanche, Pepsi Center, 8:30pm CT – NBCSN, ESPN 101.1
DENVER – The St. Louis Blues (26-9-6) kick off the new year with a big division rivalry rematch against the Colorado Avalanche (23-13-4). The Blues saw their 8-game win streak snapped against Arizona on New Year’s Eve, losing in Glendale 3-1. Tyler Bozak scored in the first to even the score 1-1, but Phil Kessel capitalized on a poor Blues turnover in their zone later in the game to give the Coyotes the win. Earlier this season, the Coyotes also snapped a Blues 7-game win streak in a 3-2 shootout.
“They’re a tough team to beat,” goaltender Jake Allen said in the STL Post-Dispatch. “They’re definitely a team on the rise. We just didn’t have our ‘A’ game the whole game tonight. We’ve had a good run, it was a good 2019. Ready to turn the page and move on to a good ‘second half’ of the season.”
Colorado will be ready for a full offensive tonight, going 1-4-1 in their last six, losing four to Central opponents, and falling eight points behind St. Louis for first in the division. Kyle Connor scored a hat trick for Winnipeg, handing the Avs a 7-4 loss on New Year’s Eve. “It feels like it’s hard to win right now,” Avs winger Mikko Rantanen said in the Denver Post. “We play good periods at times, but then we shoot ourselves in the leg. I think it’s in our minds. When it’s a tie game, or we’re up one or down one, we get scared that (a collapse) is going to happen again.”
The Blues and Avalanche have already played twice this season, with St. Louis coming out on top in both contests. They play one more time this month, then again for the final game of the season. Full broadcast coverage will be on NBCSN, with radio coverage by local ESPN 101.1.
It’s difficult to find things to critique when you’re first in the Conference by a wide margin, but it’s been one of the best first halves of the season in St. Louis. Despite losing superstar Vladimir Tarasenko early in the season, and having a myriad of forwards up and down from November to December, the Blues sit comfortably atop the West, thanks to multiple 7+ winning streaks. After 41 games, capped off by an unfortunate 3-1 loss to Arizona, the Blues are tied with Boston for 2nd in the league, with at least eight points over all teams in the Western Conference.
They’ve won more games in the calendar year (57) than any other team in the league, hauling a maximum three (perhaps four) players to their hometown All-Star Game. While the goals-for isn’t stellar (14th), their goals-against (5th) is one of the best, and the backstops of Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen have proven a fearsome tandem this season, with a combined .924 SV%. As the most successful calendar year in franchise history comes to a close, the Blues’ chances of replicating their postseason success are still very high.
Tyler Bozak has three goals in three games… The top two lines were held to no points in the loss in Arizona… Steen’s assist was his first point in eight games since returning from injury… Justin Faulk played in his 600th career game on New Year’s Eve.
The Blues and Avs face off for the third of five meetings tonight in Denver at 9:30pm ET.
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