The Vancouver Canucks did not draw an easy post-season assignment, as they’ll clash with the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
The St. Louis Blues didn’t win a game in the round robin, which sank them all the way to the fourth seed in the Western Conference. The team entered the round robin with the best points percentage in the conference, so that’s a bit of a tumble.
The Canucks and Blues are no strangers to playoff hostility. This will be the fourth series between the two and Vancouver has had St. Louis’ number thus far.
Granted, the most recent of those victories was in 2009 and the Blues were a vastly different hockey club. So were the Canucks.
By many metric, these clubs are quite close. The Blues finished the regular season with the third-best power play in the NHL, while the Canucks were fourth. Vancouver had the 16th best penalty kill, while St. Louis was 18th. The Canucks scored 224 goals, good for ninth, and the Blues scored an 11th-best 223 goals.
Vancouver proved their worth in the Qualifying Round against the Minnesota Wild and came out firing, notching a dozen goals in four games. They had scoring up and down the roster, with defenceman Quinn Hughes posting a team-leading six points and Bo Horvat recording four points. Elias Pettersson had four points, too.
As Blues head coach Craig Berube has pointed out, the Canucks are a young and fast team.
The defending champs counter with goaltending and a little discipline. Goalie Jordan Binnington was up-and-down in the round robin, but his regular season numbers were sound, and the Blues don’t seem the least bit worried. The 27-year-old knows how to bounce back and put together great games, especially when there’s a lot on the line.
And really, that’s the secret to these Blues. They may not have taken the round robin that seriously and seem to be in game mode when it comes to preparing for the Canucks. They’ve got Vladimir Tarasenko back and should have no issues finding that famous “championship mentality” in time for the games that matter.
The Canucks are young and hungry, and this will be a fantastic learning experience in the strangest of circumstances. They could play spoiler and halt St. Louis’ chances of repeating. Or they could run into an organized hockey club and see an early exit.