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Series Preview: Blues vs. Canucks

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks begin their first-round matchup on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 9:30 p.m. CT at Rogers Place in Edmonton. VIEW SCHEDULE

 

2019-20 Regular Season

Blues: 71 GP, 42-19-10, 94 points (1st in Western, 1st in Central)
Canucks: 69 GP, 36-27-6, 78 points (7th in West, 3rd in Pacific)

 

Head-to-Head

Oct. 17, 2019: Canucks 4, Blues 3 (SO)
Nov. 5, 2019: Blues 2, Canucks 1 (OT)
Jan. 27, 2020: Canucks 3, Blues 1

 

All-Time Playoff Meetings

1995: Canucks won best-of-7 series, 4-3
2003: Canucks won best-of-7 series, 4-3
2009: Canucks won best-of-7 series, 4-0

 

Forwards

Blues: The reigning Stanley Cup champions boast an elite group of forwards led by Ryan O'Reilly, who led the team with 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists) in the regular season. If not for a shoulder injury that sidelined him for all but three weeks, Vladimir Tarasenko likely would have been in the running with O'Reilly for the team lead in points and almost certainly in goals.

David Perron, Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn round out the team's top group of forwards, while a supporting cast of Robert Thomas, Tyler Bozak, Zach Sanford and Sammy Blais provide excellent depth throughout the lineup.

The fourth line of Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist and Alexander Steen was a force to be reckoned with in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and figures to be once again as soon as Barbashev returns to the bubble after the birth of his first child. Until then, expect Head Coach Craig Berube to use either Mackenzie MacEachern or Troy Brouwer in a fourth line role.

In the round robin, O'Reilly led the Blues with three points, while Perron contributed two goals.

Canucks: J.T. Miller led the Canucks with 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists) in the regular season, but he's not the only forward the Blues will need to worry about in their first-round series against Vancouver.

The Canucks have a handful of incredibly skilled and speedy players up front. Elias Pettersson followed up his Calder Trophy season as the League's top rookie with nearly a point-per-game in his sophomore season (66 points in 68 games). Center Bo Horvat recorded the second-most points (53) in his six-year NHL career, and Brock Boesner continues to be a threat in his third full NHL season in the League.

Tanner Pearson set a career high in points (45) in the regular season and was complemented by veterans such as Michael Ferland and Tyler Toffoli - who was acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Both Ferland and Toffoli, though, are listed as unfit to play for now.

In their Stanley Cup Qualifiers matchup with the Minnesota Wild, Horvat (two goals, two assists), Elias Pettersson (one goal, three assists) and defenseman Christopher Tanev (one goal, three assists) each had four points.

Vancouver will be making its first playoff appearance since 2015.

 

Defense

Blues: Captain Alex Pietrangelo, who became the first Blue to lift the Stanley Cup in franchise history, is back to lead an experienced group of blueliners in their title defense.

Pietrangelo ranked fifth on the club in points (52) and first amongst defensemen after netting 16 goals and 36 assists during the regular season. In the round robin, Pietrangelo has been joined by veteran Carl Gunnarsson, who was limited to 36 games during the season due to injury but is healthy for the playoffs.

Colton Parayko matched his career high with 10 goals in the regular season and has found a new defense partner in Marco Scandella, who joined the Blues in a trade with Montreal before the NHL Trade Deadline. Vince Dunn, Justin Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo round out the experienced group.

Canucks: One of the Canucks' brightest stars is on defense, where rookie Quinn Hughes contributed 53 points in 68 games in the regular season. Hughes shared the team lead in assists (45) with Miller and looked right at home in the NHL despite only five games of prior experience in the 2018-19 season.

Vancouver's blueline also features veterans Tyler Myers, who arrived after five seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, and Alex Edler, a 34-year-old who has played his entire 873-game career with Vancouver.

Christopher Tanev has spent his entire career with Canucks, too, and is joined on defense by Jordie Benn and Oscar Fantenberg, who each joined the Canucks beginning with the 2019-20 season.

In the Qualifiers, Hughes led Vancouver with six points (one goal, five assists) in four games.

Video: Blues, Canucks set for Round 1

 

Goalies

Blues: What more can you really say about Jordan Binnington? Since arriving in the NHL in January 2019, Binnington became the first rookie goaltender ever to record all 16 playoff wins in a single season. Before the pause, Binnington was 30-13-7 with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .912 save-percentage and three shutouts.

Jake Allen is more than capable as Binnington's backup. In his only action of the round-robin, Allen stopped 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Stars. In the regular season, he posted a career-best 2.15 goals-against average and .927 save-percentage in 24 games played.

Canucks: Jacob Markstrom carried the bulk of the load between the pipes for the Canucks in the 2019-20 season, playing 43 games and posting a 23-16-4 record with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. Markstrom has spent the last seven years with Vancouver after beginning his career with the Florida Panthers.

Markstrom had not played a game in the playoffs until the Stanley Cup Qualifiers this season, where he went 3-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .926 save-percentage against Minnesota.

Backup Thatcher Demo was 13-10-2 for Vancouver this season with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. He has just 34 games of NHL experience since making his NHL debut in the 2017-18 season.

 

Special Teams

Blues: The Blues finished the 2019-20 season with the third-ranked power play in the League (24.3 percent). The penalty kill, however, was middle of the pack, ranking 18th in the League at 79.3 percent.

Canucks: Vancouver's power-play success in the regular season was just a hair below that of the Blues. The Canucks scored 24.2 percent of the time with the man-advantage while ranking 16th on the penalty kill at 80.5 percent.

 

From Craig Berube

"Vancouver has a lot of young guys who are really good players, (have) a lot of speed. They're a dangerous team offensively, they really come at you with speed. We're going to have to do a good job of checking, doing the right things. And they also have a good power play. We took too many penalties (in the round-robin), so it's important that we stay out of the penalty box."

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