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Goals are at a premium for Blues against Avs

Blues 1, Avalanche 5

Blues center Ryan O'Reilly misses an opportunity as he approaches Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer on Friday, May 21, 2021, in the third period of Game 3 of Round One of the Stanley Cup playoffs at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

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Among the myriad problems the Blues have encountered against Colorado, let’s not forget their goal total.

Five measly goals in three games during this first-round playoff series.

• One has come on the power play — on seven chances.

Yes, after a strong finish in the regular season, the team’s power play has gone dry in the postseason. The Avalanche are shading in Mike Hoffman’s direction on right wing, and also paying close attention to Ryan O’Reilly in the middle “bumper” position. And without the threat of David Perron on the left wing or flank, there’s less to worry about.

“We have a lot of zone time,” said Torey Krug, who quarterbacks the first unit from up top. “We’re getting some shots and chances, but we haven’t been able to convert.

“Obviously this time of year you need your power play to convert in order to keep your team in a game and give yourself a chance to win.”

• One goal has come in a shorthanded situation, always a bonus.

Scoring shorthanded almost always provides a big lift for teams. During the regular season, for example, the Blues had five goals with their penalty kill unit on the ice, and went 4-0-1 in those games.

Not so on Friday. Tyler Bozak’s shorthanded goal off a steal and a feed from O’Reilly made it a 3-1 game late in the second period. But it generated no carryover momentum into the third period as Colorado won going away 5-1.

“Yeah, we just needed a little more in the third,” O’Reilly said. “They did a good job of putting it behind us and forechecking us well.”

• Lastly, they’ve scored only three goals in 5-on-5 play.

Granted, they’ve padded their stats with a couple of empty-net goals, but Colorado’s top line — the Nathan MacKinnon line — has dominated the Blues’ top line, headed by O’Reilly.

Overall among the Blues’ top regular-season scorers, Hoffman has a goal, Brayden Schenn has a goal, Jordan Kyrou has a goal. And that’s it.

“Our top guys are guys that we rely on and they’ve got to produce,” coach Craig Berube said. “We’ve got to find a way to score more goals.”

As usual, O’Reilly put the onus on himself. After leading the team and finishing tied for 13th in the NHL with 24 goals during the regular season, O’Reilly has no goals and just one assist in the playoffs.

When asked about the lack of scoring by the team’s top two lines this series, O’Reilly replied:

“I’m just speaking for myself. I know I can be a lot better. And I have to find a way to put the puck in the net.

“I had plenty of opportunities (Friday) and still didn’t make enough happen. I wish I had the answer and could adjust it. But it’s over now and I gotta get ready for next game. I gotta make a difference.

“It’s on us, the guys seeing the big ice, the big minutes. We have to find a way to produce and spark the rest of the group.”

There’s no doubt that O’Reilly is missing his linemate for most of the past three seasons, Perron, who as of Saturday remains on the NHL’s COVID list.

“Yeah, he is (missing Perron),” Berube said during Saturday. “But he’s had chances. I thought that line last night had a lot of good looks in the game. David Perron’s a good player for us. We all know that. But he’s unavailable, so I’m not gonna really comment on that.”

For the first time in the series, the Blues outshot the Avalanche on Friday, 32-26. They had several good chances, but couldn’t finish. Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer left his share of rebounds out there for the taking, as he’s done to a degree all series.

But the Blues couldn’t capitalize. Getting to rebounds is partially a matter of luck — sometimes the rebound just squirts out your way. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s also a matter of crashing the net, setting up net-front, and the Blues simply don’t have enough of that.

“It’s all about will,” Krug said. “This time of year, that’s what it’s about, having the courage and the will to go to the net. One-on-one battles.

“If you want to be boxed out, it can be an easy game for yourself and make it easy on the opponent. If you want to get to the front of the net, you have to lean on guys and get there, show that you want to be there and make it hard. Once you do that, it just creates more chances for everyone else.”

But overall, give Grubauer and the Colorado defense some credit. Grubauer had a Vezina Trophy-caliber regular season, and he’s got a 1.67 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in the playoffs.

“He’s been good all year,” Bozak said. “He’s been good his whole career. He’s a good goaltender.

“I think they do a really good job of fronting shots and blocking a lot of shots. We definitely could’ve got a little bit more traffic, I think, when we were getting shots.

“Most goalies in this league, if they see it they’re gonna save it. So we gotta get guys in front and take away his eyes and get some rebounds and create some scoring chances off of those.”

Otherwise, this series ends Sunday.

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