Colorado Avalanche Singing the Blues


The Colorado Avalanche met the St. Louis Blues for the third time in 17 days. Prior to the game at the Scottrade Center, the teams had split the previous two matches, including a decisive 5-0 victory by the Avalanche just before the Christmas break.

The St. Louis game also marked Alex Tanguay’s 500th game as an Avalanche.

Defense is Boring

Common lore is that defense wins hockey games. Not only does defense not win hockey games — scoring more goals than the other teams wins the game — but it’s boring to watch.

Unless you’re watching Erik Johnson, but then the big defenseman has been generating some of the best offense on the team recently. He set up center Ryan O’Reilly for a one-timer by implementing his strength in skating and on the puck. He swooped around the back of the offensive zone net — a new home for him — and chipped the puck along the boards. He then blew past a Blues player to pick it up, swooped around another defender and skated to the center of the offensive zone. He whipped around and set up O’Reilly for that one-timer, which the winger unfortunately just couldn’t finish.

The first period ended with a double-zero score. However, the Avalanche had good step. They had eight shots to the Blues’ five and 13 hits to their 10.

Blues Dominate the Second

Alex Tanguay played his 500th game as a Colorado Avalanche against the St. Louis Blues, but the Avs still lost. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, former Avalanche Paul Stastny’s line drew first blood in the second period. Luckily it wasn’t Stastny himself, though he did receive an assist on Dmitrij Jaskin’s goal less than half a minute into the second.

The Blues nearly scored a second goal a minute later when goalie Semyon Varlamov left the net wide open. Head coach Patrick Roy quickly called a time out to settle the Avalanche down. Nonetheless, the Blues continued to come on strong.

Varlamov continued to show his human, rather than superhuman, nature when he let in a goal by Chris Butler, again assisted by Stastny. To be fair, it all started on a breakdown of defense in the Avalanche zone. The Avs seemed to get confused between man-to-man and zone defense, managing either, which allowed Butler and easy entry in front of Varlamov, who failed to make the save.

And yet the Avalanche allowed the Blues to keep up the pressure for awhile yet. Most likely they were deflated by the weak goals. They tightened down somewhat, but they still got outshot 11-1 in the second period.

Blues Seal the Third

Play tightened up somewhat in the beginning of the third. The Avalanche got a couple looks on goalie Martin Brodeur.

Luckily for the Avs, Varlamov was able to make some impressive saves for the Avalanche at the other end. It’s just unfortunate that he had to make so many.

As the third period wore on, the Blues did a good job of eating up the time while keeping up the pressure when the situation allowed. Brodeur had to make a couple good saves, but play continued to be in Varlamov’s end.

And then, the inevitable happened. When you keep getting scoring chances, and you’ve got good players, a goal is going to happen. With just under five minutes to go, forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored to put the Blues ahead 3-0.

At least Stastny didn’t get an assist on that one.

In the end, the Avalanche looked so flat that head coach Patrick Roy didn’t even bother pulling the goalie for the extra attacker at the end of the game. The minutes ticked away, and Brodeur, who only had to stop 16 shots, earned his 125th career shutout.

Apparently defense is not that boring — a little more D from the Avs, to limit the shots on Varlamov, would have been useful. However, the Avalanche did not score a goal, and it’s tough to win hockey games that way.

In any case, the Avalanche fly home to face the Philadelphia Flyers for their annual New Year’s Eve game.