Colorado Coach Jared Bednar picked the perfect analogy to describe this 2nd round series. In a presser after Game 5, Bednar stated “In this series, it seems you’re either the hammer or the nail.” He continued by stating it was time for his team to step up and be the nail.
After Game 5, the Avalanche were undefeated on the road, however they dropped back to back home games against the Blues, their only home losses of the playoffs. It was clear, as we headed into Game 6, St. Louis was not going to just roll over like they did last year. In Game 5, the Blues fought back from a 3-0 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime.
Through the first period of Game 6, both teams were playing hard. The Avalanche were outshooting St. Louis, but the Blues were breaking up passes and creating their own offensive pressure.
With one minute remaining in the 1st period, Justin Faulk of St. Louis was able to take advantage of a lapse in the defense of Colorado and ricochet one off Avs goalie Darcy Kuemper for his first goal of the playoffs, giving his team a 1-0 lead. This is not a surprising goal, as the Blues have scored the most goals with 2 minutes or less remaining in any period. While the Avalanche significantly outshot the Blues, it is important to remember that it is not about the number of shots on goal, but the quality shots on goal.
In the 2nd, the Blues were having trouble managing the puck and after two icing calls on St. Louis, they had one defender on the ice for over 3 minutes. This led to another shot on goal by the Avs and J.T. Compher was able to get it past Blues’ goalie Husso to tie the game up at 1. This is Compher’s first goal in 17 playoff games.
With just over 10 minutes left in the 2nd, Kyrou was able to take advantage of a 2 on 1 breakaway and sank his 4th goal of the series giving the Blues the lead yet again, 2-1.
Despite a power play opportunity, the Avalanche could not capitalize on their chances to even it up. Colorado is now 2/12 on power play goals in this series and 9/28 overall this postseason.
The third period was the proving ground for both teams. Either St. Louis would hang on and force a Game 7, or Colorado would find a way to come back and move on to the conference finals for the 1st time in 20 years. Through the first half of the period, both teams were playing as if everything was on the line for them.
With 9:41 left in regulation, J.T. Compher was able to get his second goal of the night, with one second left on their third power play of the game, tying the game 2-2. At the time of that goal, Colorado had outshot St. Louis 33-16 for shots on goal. This was also the first power play goal allowed on home ice by St. Louis this postseason.
With 5 minutes to go, the Avalanche were outshooting the Blues at a rate of 2-1, however the Blues had the same 2-1 advantage over the Avs in blocked shots.
With 6 seconds left in the third period, Avalanche workhorse Darren Helm took his opportunity at a one timer as the puck bounced off the boards and was able to get it past Husso to take their first lead of the game, at the most critical point. This is Helm’s 9th trip to the postseason in his NHL career.
As time expired, the Avalanche bench was overcome by elation. For the first time in 20 years, they have made it to the conference finals where they will face the Edmonton Oilers in a best of 7 to see who will represent the West in the Stanley Cup Finals.
While this is the second year in a row the Avalanche have ended the Blues’ season, make no mistake. Unlike last year, this was an absolute battle until the end. This was an evenly matched series that forced both teams to dig deep and execute their game plans to perfection. Tomorrow night, we will watch Game 6 between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers. Carolina leads that series 3-2. The winner of that series will face the Tampa Bay Rays who are looking to win the cup for the third year in a row.