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

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

C.E. “Ned” Bentley owned a garage on Shaughnessy Avenue, now Lakeshore Drive in Summerland. Bentley later went on to serve on Summerland’s council and was recognized with the Good Citizen Award in 1939. (Summerland Museum photo)
Former Summerland reeve once ran garage

C.E. “Ned” Bentley was a prominent figure in Summerland’s past.

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is offering home compost bins at reduced prices until March 25. (Contributed)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen offers compost bins at wholesale costs

Pricing offer at participating stores in place until March 25

Council has left some grant money in reserves in case there is a need later in the year. File photo
COVID makes some of the 2021 grant decisions for Princeton council

Municipality doles out funds while striving to meet policy

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Okanagan owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Most Read