The Second Round stage is set.
After a few days of waiting to see who the opponent would be, the Colorado Avalanche will officially take on the St. Louis Blues in the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The date for Game 1 is still TBA, but the Avalanche will host the first two games of the series as a result of obtaining home ice after clinching the top seed in the Western Conference.
"Everything makes it a tough test," Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar said of the Blues. "They're extremely deep, the numbers show it."
The Avalanche enter the Second Round coming off a First Round sweep over the Nashville Predators, whereas St. Louis took care of business in Game 6 against the Minnesota Wild in order to advance. This matchup marks the second-straight postseason in which the Avs and Blues have faced one another, with last year's taking place in the First Round and resulting in a sweep by Colorado.
And while the rested and recharged Avs wouldn't be opposed to repeating last year's favorable results, they're expecting this series to be a stingy challenge.
St. Louis' depth is one of the team's strong suits as they boasted a league-high of nine skaters score 20-plus goals during the regular season, where Colorado recorded the second-most with seven. The Blues utilize the mobility of their backend and have a strong goalie tandem of Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington, which evenly split the six games against the Wild. Regarding special teams, St. Louis finished in the top-10 during the regular seasons with the second-highest producing power play at 27.0% and a fifth-ranked penalty kill at 84.1%, both of which have translated to the postseason.
"This is going to be a different style of team [compared to Nashville]," Avs defenseman Josh Manson said. "They're a bit deeper in the attack up front with the skill set. Every d-pairing is probably going to see every line. You're going to have to be ready for all three lines with every d-pairing."
And while the Avalanche swept Nashville in the First Round, the Predators left their mark. Colorado knew it would be a physical test as Nashville had finished the regular season with the most hits (2,470) and continued that physicality into the postseason.
Bednar praised his group for their response to combating Nashville's edge with that of their own. He also noted that it was a good matchup for the group to get engaged right away, especially now as they take on another hefty opponent in St. Louis, who successfully slowed down Minnesota's speed and transition game.
"They're a physical team, a big heavy team," Mikko Rantanen said. "So it'll be a good test for us. It's their heavy game [that slows down offense]. They finish a lot of checks, but they have a lot of skill too. If you look at their lineup. We've got to be on our toes defensively and play well defensively."
And while Colorado is beginning to analyze and prepare for St. Louis, they're also mindful of the importance of continuing to build off of the habits, determination and details of their own game that they executed so deftly in the First Round.
"Our mindset from the start was we were so dialed in," Erik Johnson said. "Our focus was so sharp. Everyone knew their job and what they had to do. The collective buy-in from every guy was so high. You could just feel it resonate through our locker room through every guy. Is that maybe a little mental toughness? For sure. But I just think the desire and the want to win that we have is so high. You feel it every time you step on the ice and go into the locker room."