Blues ride unconventional lineup into NHL’s second round

St. Louis Blues' Ryan O'Reilly (90) and Brayden Schenn (10) celebrate after the Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild in Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Thursday, May 12, 2022, in St. Louis. The Blues advance to the second round. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas) ASSOCIATED PRESS

With a mid-series goalkeeper change and an unorthodox lineup, the St. Louis Blues eliminated the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The club will now travel to Colorado to play the top-seeded Avalanche in the second round.

“I’m not worried about opening the playoffs on the road,” Blues forward David Perron said. “I think you have anxiety sitting at home many times, and then you go on the road. You’re sitting with the guys at the hotel.”

The Blues have seen the Avalanche in the playoffs twice, losing both times, including a first-round sweep last season.

The Blues believe they are better positioned to compete with Colorado this year than last.

“I think we’re a better squad than last year,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s going to be a really difficult assignment for us.” They’re one of, if not the, greatest squad in the league this season. They’re energetic and profound.”

The Blues had nine players score at least 20 goals this season, the most in the NHL.

“This year, we’re deeper than last year,” Blues coach Craig Berube remarked. “We’re deeper in the front, deeper in the rear.” So, I believe it will be a difficult series.”

The depth of the Blues’ blue line was put to the test against the Wild. In the first three games of the first round, St. Louis suffered injuries to Nicky Leddy, Robert Bortuzzo, and Torey Krug.

Leddy and Bortuzzo returned for Game 5, although Krug (lower body) is listed as questionable. Due to the injuries, the coaching staff decided to start 11 forwards and seven defenders in the last three games against Minnesota.

“There’s a lot that goes into that,” said Blues forward Tyler Bozak. “They (the coaches) have a different perspective on the game than we do.” They are always observing and getting a sense of who is doing well and what they believe will work for us. So, they made some excellent choices in this season.”

Scott Perunovich, an emergency call-up after Krug’s injury, has assumed Krug’s slot on the power play, which went 8 for 26 against the Wild, scoring at least once in every game.

“I know we employed a lot of (defensemen) in the series,” Berube said, “but they all had a task to perform, and they accomplished it.” “That’s what it comes down to.” That was one of the main reasons we chose the number seven.”

After moving to Jordan Binnington in Game 4, the Blues won the next three games against the Wild. Binnington had a save percentage of.944 after stopping 84 of the 89 shots he faced.

“I tried to go in there with the idea of simply competing and giving the squad a chance to win,” Binnington said.

The forthcoming opponent for the Blues has had plenty of time to relax.

This postseason, the Avalanche became the first club to move to the second round, sweeping the Nashville Predators.

Colorado trailed in its first series for 4 minutes and 57 seconds, all of which occurred in Game 4.

The Avalanche scored 5.25 goals per game and converted 43.8 percent of their man-advantage opportunities.

In the first round, the Blues’ penalty kills allowed four goals on 24 tries (83.3 percent).

“Everyone out there trusts each other to do the right thing and back each other up,” Bozak added. “I believe it starts with goaltending.” First, your goalkeeper must be your greatest penalty killer, and our goaltenders have played outstanding all season.”

The Avalanche has reached the Western Conference playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

Cale Makar, who scored 10 points in Colorado’s sweep, will have to be stopped by the Blues. He is the only defenseman in NHL history to have ten points in four games.

“We all know they’re a fantastic squad, Colorado,” Berube remarked. “They have some top-tier players.” You’re going to have to accomplish a lot of things correctly.”

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