This time it all counts.
After an exciting day of NHL Qualifying games where we saw plenty of surprises, we will finally be able to enjoy an Avs game again as the Colorado Avalanche will set their eyes on obtaining the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference when they take on the St. Louis Blues on Sunday in the first game of the Round Robin series to determine seeding for the rest of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Starting against the Blues on Sunday, the Avalanche will also take on the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, August 5, and the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, August 8 to determine the Western Conference seedings for the playoffs.
So, what is actually important about obtaining the top spot in the Western Conference in this bubble situation? There is no home ice, no fans, so what could possibly be the motivator for winning your way towards earning the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference?
This all comes down to strategy, as Avs head coach Jared Bednar will want to have the ability to have the last line change. This may not sound that important, but it really becomes paramount in later games in series when you want to make sure you have the right people on the ice at the right moment. Hypothetically, imagine the Avalanche have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. There’s three minutes left in Game 7. Winner takes it all and the faceoff is in the opponents’ zone. Bednar would want the ability to have the last line change to put out the best possible players he can to help the Avalanche score the game-winning goal and take home the Stanley Cup.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? That is how important the last line change can be in the playoffs.
What can you expect in this game against the St. Louis Blues?
In layman’s terms, expect a hard-hitting and fast-paced game.
After a poor exhibition game showing against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues will be looking to tune up their physical game on the Avalanche with the hopes of slowing the Avs down and enforcing the style of game that helped them win a Stanley Cup last season.
I expect the Avs to try to use their speed to enforce their own style of play to dominate the Blues. If the Blues will be looking to make some big hits, the Avalanche have plenty of grit of their own to match that. However, one of the specific players fans will want to keep an eye on during this game will be Nazem Kadri. Suspended the past two playoffs with the Toronto Maple Leafs, this may be a defining game for the talented forward. Which Kadri will we see against the Blues?
What has led up to this showdown with the Blues?
Leading up to this round-robin showdown, the Avalanche and the Blues have been practically equal throughout the season (before the pause), as they split the season series. They nearly perfectly split goals for and goals against as well, with the Avalanche leading 15-14 in that category.
With the pre-pause season series set in stone, the Avalanche defeated the Wild 3-2 in their exhibition game, while the Blues fell to the Blackhawks 4-0.