Streaking Blues roll into matchup with Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche's plummet in the NHL standings has been happening since early December, all while the St. Louis Blues have soared, going from the Western Conference cellar to a strong playoff position.
The Blues (29-22-5) are now in third place in the Central Division and playing with a confidence they haven't seen in a couple of seasons.
St. Louis won at Arizona 4-0 on Thursday night to extend its winning streak to eight in a row, its longest in 16 years. Now the Blues roll into Denver on Saturday afternoon to face a Colorado team struggling but at least a little more confident after defeating Winnipeg 4-1 on Thursday night.
No one has been hotter for the Blues than forward Vladimir Tarasenko. He is on a 10-game point streak and has nine goals and eight assists in that span to help St. Louis go 9-1. He had two goals in the 4-0 win over the Coyotes.
He credited a shift in focus to help him.
"I got away a little this season from counting the goals and things, because of the start, and I just try to enjoy the game," Tarasenko said after the game "Obviously, I'm not going to lie. It feels nice it's going in, and it feels more nice helping the team win."
Tarasenko isn't the only St. Louis player on a roll. Goaltender Jordan Binnington has won his last seven games and is 11-1-1 in his first 13 starts in the NHL. His seven straight wins ties Brent Johnson for the longest by a St. Louis rookie goaltender. Johnson had two seven-game streaks in 2000-01.
Binnington's teammates have praised his play.
"It's a nice thing to hear, but I'm more excited about the direction the team is heading," Binnington said after his third shutout Thursday. "We're being selfless, and it's fun to be part of the team right now."
Fun isn't exactly the right word to describe Colorado of late. The Avalanche (23-23-11) stopped an eight-game losing streak at Winnipeg, with three of those defeats coming in overtime. Goaltending, poor defensive coverage and lack of secondary scoring have all plagued Colorado since it was atop the Western Conference in early December.
Those issues were solved, at least for one night, and now the Avalanche are fighting to get back into a playoff position with 27 games remaining.
"We needed that; we needed that bad," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said after the victory. "And it's not just the win, it's the way our team played. Fantastic team effort, real strong commitment to check. All the details of our game and the whole lineup, no passengers. I liked a lot of things we did. Our penalty kill was really good, our top line was going right away."
Now the Avalanche have to keep it going, but it won't be easy. The Blues have won both matchups between the teams, and both victories have come in overtime. The two will meet one more time after Saturday, in St. Louis on April 1, and Colorado is hoping it still will be in the playoff hunt.
It will mean playing more like it did Thursday than the previous two months.
"The win tastes great," goaltender Semyon Varlamov said Thursday. "It's been some tough times we've been going through the past two months. The stats aren't great, we're losing a lot of games and stuff. We needed this one so bad."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 16, 2019