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

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

Chilliwack School District school bus outside Sardis elementary on June 11, 2014. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
COVID-19 exposures on three school buses in Chilliwack

Exposure dates range from Nov. 13 to 19, according to letters sent out by Fraser Health

File photo
Outdoor recreation generates close to $1 billion annually in Fraser Valley: report

Camping, hiking and sportfishing generate the most spending, report finds

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

The Santa Photos event will not continue at Highstreet Shopping Centre after Fraser Health asked organizers to suspend the event after new restrictions. (Highstreet photo)
Santa Photos at Abbotsford’s Highstreet Shopping Centre event suspended

Fraser Health Authority asked Highstreet to suspend event following new restrictions

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

Elissa McLaren broke her left elbow in the Sept. 20, 2020 collision. (Submitted)
Surviving victims of fatal crash in Fraser Valley asking for help leading up to Christmas

‘This accident has taken a larger toll financially, mentally and physically than originally intended’

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).
BC Court of Appeal left to walk tightrope of freedom of expression in Neufeld-Hansman case

Is defamation lawsuit aimed at stifling free expression or does the defamation hinder free speech?

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read