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

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

SD 10 secures $3 million in funding to help build Nakusp Elementary School child care centre

The centre will provide 96 new child-care spaces in the village

West Kootenay mother searching for son missing since Sept. 1

Police are investigating the disappearance of Cory Westcott

Man whose crime spree began in Nelson pleads guilty in death of female passenger

Anthony Cortez scheduled to be sentenced for 2017 incidents

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

B.C. marriage annulled because husband was unable to have sex with wife

Husband did not disclose any sexual health concerns to his wife prior to marriage

White Rock’s namesake spray-painted with Black Lives Matter slogan

Vandalism occurred sometime between Friday and Saturday

B.C. VOTES 2020: B.C. Liberals vow to eliminate sales tax for a year

From 7% to zero, then back in at 3% to stimulate economy

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

Most Read