Vancouver Canucks players celebrate the win over the Minnesota Wild during overtime NHL qualifying round game action in Edmonton, on Friday August 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Vancouver Canucks players celebrate the win over the Minnesota Wild during overtime NHL qualifying round game action in Edmonton, on Friday August 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

Feeling somewhat more seasoned in playoff experience, the Vancouver Canucks now face an opponent with loads of it.

Vancouver opens a first-round, best-of-seven series Wednesday in Edmonton against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. The winner’s second-round opponent will be the victor of the series between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars.

The Canucks are a playoff team for the first time since 2015.

Ten Canucks, including goaltender Jakob Markstrom, had zero NHL post-season experience prior to beating the Minnesota Wild in four games in a best-of-five qualifier.

After dropping the opener, the Canucks won three straight game to advance.

“It was great for us, a great learning experience because there’s a lot of us playing our first NHL playoffs,” Canucks forward Elias Pettersson said.

Vancouver rides the confidence that comes with three consecutive victories, while the Blues have yet to win a game since their arrival in Edmonton.

St. Louis kept its 2019 Cup roster intact and topped the Western Conference this season. But the Blues went 0-3 in the round robin of the conference’s top four teams to determine seeding.

St. Louis defenceman Alex Pietrangelo is aware his team needs to summon urgency for an elimination series that opens with three games in five days.

“Our minds will be really dialled in here,” the captain said. “We’ve had a lot of down time in this qualifying. They gave us a probably a little bit too much time to sit around.

“To be able to flip that switch, I think if there’s a group that can do it, it’s going to be us.”

The penalty box will be a factor given the potency of each team’s power play units. St. Louis ranked third in the league with a man advantage (24.3), marginally ahead of Vancouver in fourth (24.2).

READ MORE: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Blues head coach Craig Berube can handle his players taking penalties to prevent a goal or to assert physicality, but can’t abide cheap minors.

“We haven’t been disciplined yet,” he said. “We’ve got to do a much better job of getting rid of the slashing penalties and the hookings and things like that.”

Vancouver’s 78 penalty minutes versus the Wild led all teams in the NHL’s restart.

“Special teams, it’s going to be huge in this series as well,” Canucks forward Loui Eriksson said. “We have to stay maybe a little bit more discipline and don’t take as many penalties we did against Minnesota.”

Each team boasts a faceoff circle ace. Blues assistant captain Ryan O’Reilly took more draws than any player in the NHL this season winning 56.6 per cent of his 1,556.

Canucks captain Bo Horvat ranked third in reps (1,483) winning 57.3.

“It’s better to start with the puck than without it,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “At this time of year, it’s all those little things that add up at the end of the night.”

Canucks forwards Tyler Toffoli and Micheal Ferland remained “unfit to play” after suffering undisclosed injuries in the Wild series.

KEY MATCHUP — Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson shooting on Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington. Pettersson edged runner-up Binnington in voting to win last year’s Calder Cup in their rookie seasons.

THE BIG QUESTION — Can Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko recover his scoring touch? A five-time 30-goal scorer, Tarasenko played only 10 regular-season games because of October shoulder surgery. The NHL’s four-month pause was a recovery boon for the Russian, but he didn’t record a point in three seeding-pool games.

PLAYOFF HISTORY — Vancouver hasn’t claimed a Cup, but reached the finals three times (1982, 1994, 2011). The Blues have made the playoffs eight of the nine years winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2019.

COACHES’ PLAYOFF HISTORY — Prior to navigating the Blues to last year’s Cup win, Berube’s playoff experience as a head coach was limited to a first-round appearance in 2014 with the Philadelphia Flyers. Green makes his playoff debut as a head coach. The two men have a combined 145 playoff games between them as players, but neither won a Cup.

REGULAR-SEASON RECORDS — The Blues topped the Western Conference (42-19-10), while the Canucks ranked seventh (36-27-6).

SEASON SERIES — Vancouver went 2-0-1 versus St. Louis, with a 3-1 win Jan. 27 and a 4-3 shootout victory Oct. 17. The Blues won 2-1 in OT on Nov. 5.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

CanuckshockeyNHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue will be lit up until January 15. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue all aglow

Although the tradition Light Up this year was cancelled, folks can still enjoy the holiday lights

The first $300 shopping spree winner, Carol Travis. (Cole Schisler photo)
LDBA and Ladysmith Credit Union sponsor local shopping sprees

Don’t miss your chance to win a $300 local shopping spree

Bob Higgins pulls the gate across on the elevator built inside his home. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Crofton man’s expertise earns international award with home-built elevator

Experience put to use in winning contest entry for furniture and home projects

Nanaimo Airport’s terminal building. (File photo)
Nanaimo Airport faces steep decline in passenger counts

Nanaimo Airport CEO Dave Devana says it will take years to return to 2019 levels

Bhagwan Mayer. (Photo submitted)
Organizer of transporting the World’s Largest Hockey Stick to Cowichan remembered

Bhagwan Mayer a “hard-working fellow who cared about his community.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a suspect who wore a black-and-white striped hoodie and rode a yellow mountain bike when he allegedly stole three children’s backpacks from a daycare facility. (Photo submitted)
VIDEO: Thief steals children’s backpacks from daycare in Nanaimo

Suspect rode a yellow mountain bike and made off with backpacks hanging on fence

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until further notice due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Cortes Island First Nation community locked down due to positive COVID-19 test

Klahoose First Nation has had one positive test, one other potential case

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Gracie couldn’t stop nursing from her previous owner’s goats which was problematic given the goats were trying to be dried out to breed. Gracie now lives at A Home for Hooves. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Cowichan animal sanctuary gets international accreditation

A Home for Hooves farm sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has spoken out about some veterans losing their Dimished Earning Capacity income. (Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror photo)
Blaney pens letter to minister about veteran supports

Concerned about veterans losing some income

Most Read