Jared Bednar evaluates the St. Louis Blues much like he looks at his own team in the playoffs.
The Avalanche coach sees great talent, depth and the ability to wear down an opponent over a seven-game series. Colorado did that by sweeping Nashville in the first round, and the Blues did the same against Minnesota, although it took them six games to win.
The Wild took a 2-1 series lead before the Blues won three in a row to advance.
“They’re tough to play against,” Bednar said of the Blues. “They take away all your time and space and then if you make mistakes and try to push the limits with your puck play and you don’t manage the puck properly, they’ll make you pay.”
The Avs and Blues will begin their seven-game Western Conference semifinal series at Ball Arena, it’s just unclear when that will be. The NHL has not released the series schedule yet, but Colorado has home-ice advantage with Games 1 and 2.
One of the biggest differences the Avs will encounter compared to their first-round series against Nashville: Depth scoring that stretches across multiple lines with eight 20-goal scorers.
“Offensively, Nashville had one (dangerous scoring) line,” Bednar said. “These guys got three, minimum, and a lot of help from their D-corps, too.”
St. Louis scratched defensemen Marco Scandella and Torey Krug to injuries in Thursday’s 5-1 series-clinching victory at Enterprise Center. But the Blues’ defense only allowed 26 shots, including just five in the second period.
“They’re deep. Extremely deep,” Bednar said. “The numbers show it.”
Among those numbers: 109 points in the regular season with a 14-2-2 record over their final 16 games, the second most potent power play in the NHL (26.97%) and a penalty kill that finished in the top five (84.09).
The Avs went 2-1 against the Blues in the regular season, winning the final two meetings. Bednar scoffed at that record — as well as last year’s first-round series in which Colorado swept the Blues.
Those results no longer matter.
“I bet half our guys can’t even remember our regular-season matchups against them,” he said.
The Avs had 100% participation in a full-team practice Friday for the second consecutive day. Bednar and his staff will give the players Saturday off.
“It’s two days of good practice, and then (Saturday off) gives us time to get all of our prep work done as coaches and we’ll start meeting Sunday and then hit the ice with a more clear focus on what we’re going to do,” Bednar said.
Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson is happy to learn of the second-round opponent after nearly three days of thinking about who it might be. But he wasn’t really paying much attention to it.
“In the playoffs, if you get too wrapped up in who you’re going to play next, and the matchup, and who you’d rather play, I think that only hurts you,” Manson said. “You’d rather just kind of be open to whoever you have to play and then focus and think positively about it. You don’t want to be thinking, ‘Oh, I’d rather play Minnesota,’ and then you have to play St. Louis and you’re already in your own head.
“So keeping a clear-and-balanced mindset is probably the best attitude to have.”
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