Losing the first game of their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series doesn’t put the defending champion St. Louis Blues on the ropes.
However, another defeat at the hands of the upstart Vancouver Canucks in Friday’s Game 2 in Edmonton would have the Blues in a rough spot.
“We had three games to try and get our pace and we just weren’t good enough,” St. Louis forward Brayden Schenn said. “I don’t think we were good enough as a team right from our exhibition game.
“We’re going to continue to build here, get better, and try and wear ’em down. That’s what the playoff series is all about. We’ve been in this situation before. Even all last year, we were down in some series. They’re a good team over there. And we’re gonna have to find a way to be better.”
The Blues have dropped all five games — counting an exhibition contest — since resuming action after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the league in March. They were winless in the four-team round-robin tournament, a surprising development for the squad that was tops in the Western Conference when the league was paused in March.
There are myriad reasons for their struggles, among them being without a complete line of forwards in Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais and Alexander Steen while sniper Vladimir Tarasenko is trying to find his form following a shoulder injury in October.
A surprising trend has developed since the restart, as St. Louis has been outscored 9-0 in the third period — including 3-0 in Wednesday’s 5-2 setback to the Canucks.
“I liked our game (overall),” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We made two mistakes in the third period and they both ended up in our net. I didn’t like those mistakes and we have to stop those from happening.”
Meanwhile, the Canucks are trending in the other direction.
Vancouver has won four straight games and looked stronger in each outing.
“You want to get up for the big games, you want to be a difference maker, especially at this time of year,” said captain Bo Horvat, who scored twice in the series opener.
“You’re playing the Stanley Cup champs, it’s easy to get up for. These are the games you want to win.”
And now the Canucks are bracing for an even more motivated Blues squad, which twice won series last year despite losing the opening clash.
“This series is not going to be easy,” said Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom, who made 29 saves in the opener.
“It’s going to be really tough. St. Louis is a great team, and we have to count on them coming really hungry for Game 2, and we have to step up our game as well and grow and keep building on what we started.”
–Field Level Media