If there is one universal truth in sports it is this: to be the best you have to beat the best.
At some point, whether in the regular season or the postseason, you will have to face the best, especially in hockey where you play every team at least twice.
Enter the St. Louis Blues, the team that has weathered a rebuild and is now the class of the NHL or at the very least one of the teams that is the class. They are big, fast, skilled, tough and incredibly well coached.
In two games against them, the Colorado Avalanche has lost both by a combined score of 11-4 and were thoroughly exposed in each match. In two matches the Avalanche (17-6 on the season) have learned just how far they have yet to come.
As a team, the Avs are still young, still learning while the St. Louis Blues have their eyes set on playing well past Memorial Day. They have a focus to match their talent, making them one of the more lethal teams in the NHL.
The Avs have the talent to play with the Blues for stretches and the speed to counter their size. What they lack is consistency, focus and a few players to put them on an even level with the Blues.
Another top four defenseman will be necessary at some point, as will a working powerplay but what the Avalanche need is the mentality of the Blues. For most of the season, the intensity of the Avs has matched their opponent. They fought the Kings to a 1-0 shootout win. They beat Chicago easily, dispatched Pittsburgh and Boston.
However, against the Blues, their focus slipped and their intensity waned. Too often did the Avalanche stand and watch the Blues work instead of getting in deep on the forecheck, getting in the Blues face and taking the play to them.
It is a day and night comparison between the Avs of the last four years and this team but the Blues have shown them just how far they have to come.