Avalanche rout Blues in blowout, 8-0

By Jim Thomas
St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS

DENVER - If the St. Louis Blues made a statement in their season-opening win Wednesday, the Colorado Avalanche replied Friday, with a couple of exclamation points.

If the Blues said: We’re still here.

The Avalanche countered with: So are we.

Of course, just two games into a 56-game regular-season schedule, it’s impossible to make firm conclusions of any kind. If anything, Friday’s 8-0 loss by the Blues to Stan Kroenke’s Avalanche showed that these are two good teams that will go after each other all season.

They will see each other six more times in the regular season, but just twice more here at Ball Arena.

After a 4-1 loss to the Blues on Wednesday, the Avalanche called it a wakeup call.

So guess what new Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly called it after his team lost by a touchdown plus a two-point conversion?

“It’s a wakeup call for us,” he said.

Hockey can be a humbling game.

“We embarrassed ourselves tonight,” O’Reilly continued. “That was very disappointing. The thing is, we came into the game and you could tell we just didn’t have the detail in. The little things steamrolled into big things.”

Don’t know if the Blues were tired, but Colorado was quicker all night - quicker down the ice and quicker to the puck. The Blues committed eight penalties and allowed five power-play goals.

Conversely, the Blues’ new, improved power play went 0-for-4, and on a night when the Blues were outshot 38-21 they managed only four shots on goal with the man advantage.

Perhaps most disappointing of all, the Blues seemed to sag as the Colorado goals piled up. There was no push back.

“That was not what we do,” O’Reilly said. “We stick with it, we compete to the end. We didn’t.”

The Blues also lost more than the game. They lost defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who was one of the Blues’ best defenders Wednesday, in the first period due to an upper-body injury. Bortuzzo was on the receiving end of a shoulder to the back of his head from Colorado’s Valeri Nichuskin.

It was a brutal hit, more violent than the one Wednesday that got Sammy Blais a two-game suspension. Bortuzzo’s head slammed into the glass behind the Colorado net on contact. There wasn’t even a penalty called on this one, though. Apparently, referees Kyle Rehman and Trevor Hanson just missed it.

If it’s a concussion, Bortuzzo’s availability for Monday’s home opener against San Jose is in doubt.

Biting his words, coach Craig Berube was succinct when asked if the NHL’s player safety department should hold a hearing on the Nichuskin hit.

“There should be,” Berube said. “It’s a hit from behind to the head.”

The Blues welcomed newcomer Mike Hoffman, who missed Wednesday’s opener because of work visa issues. But Hoffman had a quiet game in his debut, as did the rest of the Blues to put it mildly.

After Wednesday’s outcome, you knew Colorado would come out strong. And thanks in part to another early penalty against St. Louis, that’s exactly what the Avs did.

On Wednesday, it took the Blues only 61 seconds to get sent to the box. They waited just a little longer this time, with Vince Dunn sent off after just 108 seconds for hooking. St. Louis killed this one off, but wasn’t so fortunate later on.

At one point in the opening period, Colorado was outshooting the Blues 10-2, swarming around goalie Jordan Binnington with all kinds of pressure and whacks at the puck. He stopped 12 shots all told in a scoreless opening period, keeping the Blues in the game .

“I thought Binner played outstanding the time he was in the nets,” O’Reilly said. “He made some huge ones. He was our best player tonight by far.

“It’s embarrassing what we did in front of him. We have to find a way to shut it down and find something. And we didn’t. We let him out to dry. We let (Ville) Husso out to dry.”

With the Blues trailing 4-0 after two periods and going nowhere, Husso got the net for the third period in what was his NHL debut.

Just 1 minute 13 into the third, Nazem Kadri welcomed Husso to the big leagues with a power play goal. All told, Husso yielded four goals on 10 shots, with three of them coming on the power play.

“We didn’t come out with enough effort,” Berube said. “Obviously, they had way more urgency in the game. We escaped the first period, but it never got better. We talked about it. (But) we just didn’t compete hard enough in a lot of areas. We lost puck battles. I could go on and on.”

And he did.

“We can’t take all the penalties we take,” Berube said. “We give up six power plays.”

It was actually five. The stat sheet was wrong. But who’s counting?

Colorado finally got one by Binnington in the early minutes of the second period. Left alone in the near slot, Gabriel Landeskog blasted a shot home. After an Andre Burakovsky power play goal made it 2-0, the rout was on when Landeskog scored his second even-strength goal — again on a sequence in which he was left all alone, this time practically in Binnington’s lap.

After Wednesday’s loss, Colorado coach Jared Bednar adjusted his lines, reuniting Landeskog with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The Blues had no answer for Colorado’s Big 3.

“You knew with that line, they were gonna have high energy and coming hard, taking chances,” O’Reilly said.

Speaking of one of the Landeskog goals, O’Reilly added: “I made a bad read in the D-zone, go to the wrong area and it’s in the back of the net. You could just feel their momentum and their confidence kind of build.”

And the Blues’ momentum and confidence go the other way in what for them was a night to forget.