Thursday, May 19, 2022

(5-19-22) Blues-Avalanche Game 2 Gameday Lineup

DENVER -- The formation will remain the same, but Blues coach Craig Berube is moving parts around his top nine to try and gain a spark against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

The Blues are sticking with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the fifth straight game in Game 2 of the Western Conference second round against the Avalanche today (8:30 p.m.; TNT, ESPN 101.1-FM) but Berube is mixing up his collective group of top nine forwards.

The Blues coach is splitting up Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko and putting Buchnevich with Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron, Thomas back with the kid pairing with Jordan Kyrou along with veteran Brandon Saad and Tarasenko will be reunited with Brayden Schenn as his center, a combination often seen when Jaden Schwartz was in St. Louis, but it will be Ivan Barbashev on that wing.

"More balance," Berube said, "like, you know, going from the first series and then to one game here, we need more balance, so to get that, I moved some guys around to see if I can create some balance throughout our lines to score, get some opportunities to score and more attempts. 

"Saad with the kids, they scored a goal in Minny and they’ve played together before and been a good line. Then a little bit of a heavier line with Schenn and Barbashev and Tarasenko. The (Nazem) Kadri line (with Gabriel Landeskog and Artturi Lehkonen) is pretty heavy and it’s a good line, so I need some heaviness there. Schenn and Tarasenko have a good past. They’ve been together before with Schwartz, so there’s some familiarity there. Basically, 'Buchy' hasn’t scored a goal yet, so I’m going to try something new with him."

That's the intriguing trio that we haven't seen before, or often, this season.

O'Reilly and Perron have been a staple, but Buchnevich with them is unfamiliar territory but one that can work for sure.

"Well, he can make plays for sure, and he's a very good defensive player," Berube said of Buchnevich, who has four assists in seven playoff games but no goals. "He's got a great stick and things like that. I think they forecheck well, O'Reilly and Perron, that’s a big part of their game, and that's going to drag 'Buchy' into the fight a little bit more there."

Perron recalled perhaps playing with Buchnevich once in Calgary or perhaps on the power play but other than that, it will be a fresh look for himself and O'Reilly.

"Yeah, I think one time maybe in Calgary when that game was out of hand in the third period, we played with him a little bit," Perron said. "But that was it really. I think for 'O’Ry' and I, it’s a lot similar every single night. We want to go play deep, hang onto the puck make the other team defend more than they did the first (game), and I think 'Buchy' can really add to that the way he hangs onto the puck, the way he makes plays, and trying to get that goal that he’s talking about a lot."

When Berube and the coaching staff typically make changes or tweaks to the lineup, it typically works in their favor.

"There’s a reason usually when he does it," Perron said. "One of our first times we’re going to start a game with 'Buchy' – 'O’Ry' and I. So we’re excited about that. He’s a heckuva player. He does everything well on the ice, just passing the puck, defensive sticks, all that stuff. So we’re excited.

"Yeah, there’s times that (Berube) bounces things off our guys. But not this time. I think the coaches have such a good feel, pre-scouting the other team, all that stuff. They’re doing a great job."

Thomas and Kyrou tend to make things happen when they're together, and Saad scored his lone goal of the playoffs in Game 5 of the first round playing with that pair.

"They played together a lot in Traverse City and the rookie camps and things like that, so they’ve been together for quite some time … and on the power play together and they look for each other," Berube said. "It seems like Kyrou gets a lot more engaged in the game when he’s with Thomas."

- - -

There was a spirited group on the ice for the Blues, despite being down 1-0 in the series following a 3-2 overtime loss here at Ball Arena on Tuesday.

The Blues were outshot badly (54-25) and out-Corsi'ed 106-45 in the game, and they know why. But that doesn't mean they dwell on it.

"Yeah, we have to turn the page obviously on what happened, and I think we did," Perron said. "That’s what the days in between will do and we’re ready to go for tonight."

As Schenn said on Wednesday, the Blue were "chucking" too many pucks away and that enabled the Avalanche to continuously come at them in waves. 

"Just getting in their way," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "Anytime you can, take away some of their speed, swing with them in the neutral zone. You're going to have to manage the puck. They create a lot offense off of the other team’s turnovers. And ultimately, the best thing to do is just play in the offensive zone and try and stand over pucks and cycle and have them stop in the D-zone. And you know, hopefully that limits some of those things.

"Yeah, it's exciting. It's an exciting challenge. It's a hard place to win games. You obviously don't want to go 0-2, but the thought of grabbing one on the road here and then going back to St. Louis is something we should embrace here as a group. And I think we will."

Instead of "chucking" pucks, or basically throwing them away, Perron said the Blues have to "play more back of the net for sure. Just simple things. But with their speed, the way they get going, they’re D, you can barely get going on the forecheck and they’re starting to go the other way right away. So we have to be extremely smart with the puck, hang onto it a little bit more. Chip away at their bodies a little bit more on our forecheck, making sure that slows them down. That’s going to help our D, being able to get up on the forecheck as well. And same thing on the back. We’re going to have better numbers, better everything, and that should create more offensive zone chances as well."

- - -

In sticking with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Berube and the coaches considered going back to the standard 12/6, but with Scott Perunovich doing a good job quarterbacking that top power play unit in the absence of Torey Krug, Berube decided against it. And Berube hasn't minded Perunovich on the defensive side despite not playing much since he injured his left wrist Jan. 15.

"I think he’s held his own," Berube said. "When you dress seven D, them guys, they don’t get a ton of time and last game, with only one power play, he obviously got less time. But I think that he’s played fine."

It also limited the time of fourth-line wing Alexei Toropchenko, but with his ability to drive the puck wide and attack the net with speed and a relentless forecheck, the though of moving the big Russian up in the lineup has been considered.

"Yeah, I have. I could use him more," Berube said. "That’s one area I think I can use more of is 'Torp'. His skating, his size, he’s a good defensive player and he’s on the right side of things, so definitely get him involved more.

"He’s done a real good job for us. Him playing down the stretch for us in a number of games in a row and certain situations, I’ve moved him around and used him up with O’Reilly and Perron at times, and he’s comfortable with all of that."

- - -

Defenseman Marco Scandella practiced again Thursday but will not due to a lower-body injury.

Scandella, who last played in Game 4 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild, was initially injured in this building in the final road game April 25 when he took a knee-on-knee collision with Nico Sturm.

"He's out there skating with us," Berube said. "He's going to have to make a decision at some point when he thinks he's ready to play and he'll play. He made that decision before and he obviously wasn't well enough to play and he tried. That’s what they do. So I don't think he wants to go down that road again, where he puts himself in that position but then can't finish."

As for Krug, who hasn't played since he sustained a lower-body injury of his own midway through the first period of Game 3 against the Wild, he's not even skating, so highly unlikely he plays in this series.

- - - 

The Blues' projected lineup:

Pavel Buchnevich-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Brandon Saad-Robert Thomas-Jordan Kyrou

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexei Toropchenko-Tyler Bozak

Nick Leddy-Colton Parayko

Calle Rosen-Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola-Robert Bortuzzo

Scott Perunovich

Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Ville Husso will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Logan Brown, Nathan Walker and Steven Santini. Torey Krug (lower body) and Marco Scandella (lower body) are out.

- - -

The Avalanche's projected lineup:

Valeri Nichushkin-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog-Nazem Kadri-Artturi Lehkonen

Andre Burakovsky-J.T. Compher-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Darren Helm-Nico Sturm-Andrew Cogliano 

Devon Toews-Cale Makar

Samuel Girard-Josh Manson

Bowen Byram-Erik Johnson

Darcy Kuemper will start in goal; Pavel Francouz will be the backup. 

Healthy scratches include Jack Johnson, Alex Newhook, Ryan Murray, Logan O'Connor, Kurtis MacDermid, Hunter Miska and Justus Annunen. The Avalanche report no injuries.

No comments:

Post a Comment