|7:30 PM PT8:30 PM MT9:30 PM CT10:30 PM ET3:30 GMT11:30 8:30 PM MST10:30 PM EST7:30 UAE (+1)22:30 ET1:30 BRT, January 13, 2021
Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado Attendance: 0
Avalanche, Blues open season with Stanley Cup aspirations
St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche
- Colorado has won three straight against St. Louis, taking the last two regular-season meetings by a combined score of 12-6 and then winning the Round Robin opener, 2-1. Prior to this three-game losing streak, the Blues had won six straight against the Avalanche dating back to the 2018-19 season.
- St. Louis had 21 come-from-behind wins last season -- tied with Washington for most in the NHL -- including eight wins when trailing in the third period. The Blues' +14 third-period goal differential was sixth-best in the NHL.
- David Perron scored 25 goals last season -- tied with Brayden Schenn for the team lead -- including nine game-winning goals, tied for third in the NHL. His four overtime goals last season were the most in the NHL.
- Colorado lost in seven games in the Second Round to Dallas, the second straight season the Avs have dropped a Second Round Game 7. The Avs finished the regular season with a +46 goal differential, third-best in the NHL.
- Nathan MacKinnon finished last season with a team-high 93 points (35g, 58a), the third straight season that he has posted 90+ points -- the longest streak by an Avs skater since Joe Sakic did so in five straight from 1989-90 to 1993-94. It's also the second-longest active streak, trailing only Connor McDavid's four-year run.
- Cale Makar ranked second among rookies with 50 points (12g, 38a), trailing only Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes (53 points). His 50 points were also the most by a rookie defenseman in franchise history.
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The unusual conclusion to last season has continued into the 2020-21 NHL campaign, but it hasn't dampened the expectations for the host Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues.
Both teams have set a Stanley Cup championship as a legitimate goal for this year, which the teams kick off in Denver on Wednesday night. The Jan. 13 opening night is three months later than when the NHL season normally begins and the 82-game schedule has been trimmed to 56, all of which will be played within the respective divisions.
The league has temporarily realigned the standings with a regional tilt, with one of the four divisions consisting solely of the seven Canadian teams. The Avalanche and Blues are still division rivals, this year in the eight-team West, where half will qualify for the playoffs. It will still take four rounds to win the title, with the first two rounds being between the top four teams within each division.
Instead of Eastern and Western Conference finals the winners of each division will advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Colorado and St. Louis are good enough to come out of the West. The Blues are a year removed from winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup title while the Avalanche have been close to winning it in each of the last two seasons, losing Game 7 in the conference semifinals both years.
Last season -- which ended in September -- Colorado was done in by injuries. The top two goaltenders were hurt in the series against the Dallas Stars, but the Avalanche rallied from down 3-1 in the series to nearly win it, losing Game 7 in overtime.
That has only made Colorado more determined.
"What I like is that's the way our players feel, and we feel we have as good a shot as anybody else in the league," executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic said Tuesday.
The optimism is warranted. The Avalanche have arguably the best player in Nathan MacKinnon, who centers one of the top lines in the NHL, and added Brandon Saad from Chicago as part of a four-player deal that sent defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm to the Blackhawks.
Colorado is deep at forward, goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz are healthy and the defensive unit, led by 22-year-old Cale Makar, is solid. Devon Toews, acquired from the New York Islanders for draft picks, will help fill the void left by Zadorov.
The Blues had some major turnover as well. They said goodbye to captain, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who signed with the Vegas Golden Knights, and center Alexander Steen, who retired. They added forwards Mike Hoffman and Kyle Clifford and defenseman Torey Krug through free agency.
Krug and Colton Parayko make up the top defensive pairing for St. Louis.
"They both skate really well, and you've got Krug who is a real good puck mover and you've got Parayko who defends as well as any defenseman in the National Hockey League," coach Craig Berube said. "They'll kill a lot of plays with their feet and they can be dangerous the other way. In the offensive zone, they both shoot the puck a ton. There will be opportunities to do things offensively."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 12, 2021