The St. Louis Blues will begin their Stanley Cup title defense against the Vancouver Canucks when their first-round playoff series begins Wednesday night in Edmonton.
The Blues lost all three of their round-robin postseason games to fall into the No. 4 Western Conference playoff seed.
The Canucks earned the No. 5 seed by beating the Minnesota Wild three games to one in their best-of-five qualifying series.
“There’s no secret the way St. Louis plays and the strength of their team,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “Any time you win a Stanley Cup, you can win in a bunch of different ways. They’re comfortable playing in close games. They’ve got a bigger team that can protect the puck very well.
“They’re a heavy team that’s smart. They can win 1-0. They’ve got enough skill to win 5-4, those kind of games as well.”
During the regular-season series, the Canucks beat the Blues 3-1 in regulation and 4-3 in a shootout. The Blues won the other game 2-1 in overtime.
“They’re the defending champions for a reason — they play hard and we had three tough games against them — but I’m excited,” Canucks center Elias Pettersson said.
“Throughout the regular season they played us very well,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s good to know that nothing’s going to come easy. We have to earn this, and it’s going be extremely difficult.”
The Canucks rolled over the Wild with impressive performances from Quinn Hughes (one goal, five assists), Pettersson (one goal, three assists), Bo Horvat (two goals, one assist), Brock Boeser (two goals, one assist) and Tanner Pearson (two goals, one assist).
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom started all four games against the Wild and posted a 2.27 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
During the regular season, J.T. Miller (three goals, one assist), Horvat (two goals), Pettersson (two assists) and Jake Virtanen (two assists) were productive against the Blues. Markstrom only faced the Blues once, losing the 2-1 overtime game.
“They’re very deep, top to bottom,” Blues defenseman Vince Dunn said. “They’re a very offensively skilled team. They have ‘D’ that are very mobile and very active in the play. They have great goaltending, too.”
Blues coach Craig Berube noted that Hughes presents a special challenge jumping up from the defense to join the attack.
“With Hughes on the back end, he’s a real dynamic player, advancing that puck up the ice, doing some real special things in the offensive zone at the blue line,” Berube said. “He’s one of the best in the league back there.”
The Blues got two goals each from David Perron and Colton Parayko during the round-robin games. O’Reilly had three assists and Brayden Schenn and Zach Sanford had two each.
Goaltender Jordan Binnington started two of the three round-robin games and posted subpar results, a 4.10 GAA and a .895 save percentage.
During the regular-season series against the Canucks, Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Alex Pietrangelo each had a goal and an assist. Binnington was 1-0-1 with a 1.87 GAA and a .939 save percentage.
The Blues could be missing forwards Sammy Blais (lower-body injury) and Ivan Barbashev (paternity leave) in Game 1.
For the Canucks, winger Micheal Ferland (unfit to play) will be out and forward Jay Beagle (lower body) is questionable.
–Field Level Media