March 28, 2023

The Colorado Avalanche ended a three-game home stand Monday night playing host to their division rivals, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues, who took the Avalanche to a sixth game in a hard-fought division series in the Stanely Cup Playoffs last season, came into Monday’s contest with a lackluster record of 5-8-0. After losing eight straight games, St. Louis had rattled off two straight wins and came into Denver like a team on a mission.

Behind a brilliant goaltending performance from Jordan Binnington, the Blues used an aggressive style of play to outlast the Avalanche, handing the reigning Stanley Cup champions a 3-2 loss, and ending their four-game winning streak.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Bennington Stands on His Head

The last time the Avalanche saw Jordan Binnington, he was throwing an empty water bottle at Colorado’s second-line center Nazem Kadri; the incident took place during a media interview after Game 3 of the second-round playoff series between the two teams. Kadri and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen had barreled into Binnington in a hard-fought battle for the puck, injuring the St. Louis goaltender and knocking him out of the series.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Binnington returned to action this season and has had mixed results to date. He brought a record of 5-5-0 into the contest with the Avalanche, posting a 3.19 goals against average (GAA) and a subpar .895 save percentage (SV%). But, perhaps playing with a chip on his shoulder, he brought his A-game to Ball Arena Monday night.

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Stopping 45 of 47 shots-on-goal, Binnington was nearly unbeatable. He made save after save, including shutting down a 93-mile-per-hour blast from Cale Makar fired at close range. It was Binnington’s best performance of the season so far.

Avalanche Draw Penalties, but Fail to Capitalize

The Blues had given up only one minor penalty in their previous three games, and no penalties in the previous two games. (They did have two five-minute fighting major penalties in the game on Nov. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers.) The Avalanche drew five penalties versus the Blues, including two in the first period, but only converted on one opportunity, a third-period goal from Artturi Lehkonen.

The Avalanche drew a penalty with 2:01 left in the game. On the ensuing power play, Blues forward Pavel Buchnevich tried to bat the puck out of the zone and instead threw it over the glass, earning a two-minute bench minor for delay of game and giving the Avalanche a two-man advantage with 1:43 left to play. Colorado then pulled goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, which gave them a potent six-on-three advantage. They had six shot attempts during the final 90 seconds, but only two were on goal, with the other four sailing wide, and none finding the back of the net.

Even with the ineffective power play Monday night, the Avalanche still lead the NHL, converting on 37 percent of their power play chances so far this season.

Avalanche Continue to Battle Injuries

Several key players for the Avalanche remain on the injured list:

Player Position Injury Expected
Shane Bowers C Upper Body At least Dec. 23
Bowen Byram D Lower Body Week-to-week
Samuel Girard D Lower Body Day-to-day
Darren Helm C Hip At least Dec. 13
Gabriel Landeskog LW Knee At least Jan. 12
Kuris MacDermid D Lower Body At least Dec. 27
Valeri Nichushkin RW Ankle At least Dec. 7

The team has been filling the holes with a variety of players, some given significant responsibility. Both Martin Kaut and Dryden Hunt, players who started their season with the Avalanche’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate the Colorado Eagles, saw time on the second line. Kaut, a former first-round draft pick, logged 12:34 of ice time, his third-longest stretch this season in 11 games with the club.

Martin Kaut Colorado Avalanche
Martin Kaut, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Colorado will continue to look for ways to stitch together a roster while they wait for core players like Landeskog, Nichushkin, and Byram to get healthy.

Game Notes & Up Next

Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen, the NHL’s number-one star for the week ending Nov. 13, notched another goal and an assist in the contest. His 11 goals are tied for third in the league, and his 25 total points are tied for second. Nathan MacKinnon, the team’s superstar center, tallied his league-leading 20th assist, and defensive star Cale Makar assisted on each of Colorado’s goals, giving him 18 total points on the season, good enough for third in the league among defenders.

The Avalanche will pack their bags and head out of town on a three-game road trip beginning Thursday. They’ll travel first to PNC Arena in Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes.

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