No. 4 Blues vs. No. 5 Canucks
9:45 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, FS-MW
Vancouver leads best-of-7 series, 3-2
Jordan Binnington could be back in the St. Louis Blues net when they try to avoid being eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday.
Blues coach Craig Berube said Thursday that he hadn’t decided yet if he will go with Jake Allen, who started the past three games and allowed four goals on 30 shots in a 4-3 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday in Edmonton, the West hub city, or Binnington, who helped the Blues win their first Stanley Cup last season but has a 4.27 goals-against average and .862 save percentage in four starts this postseason.
Binnington started Games 1 and 2 and allowed nine goals on 47 shots in losing both.
“We have faith in both of our goalies,” Berube said.
The Canucks are expected to start goalie Jacob Markstrom, who made 36 saves in Game 5, including 18 straight to close the game. He has a .927 save percentage and 2.65 GAA in the series against the Blues.
“When [Markstrom] is playing like that, it fires up the bench for sure,” Canucks defenseman Jordie Benn said. “It’s the same as when guys make a big block shot. When [Markstrom] is doing those things it’s, it’s pretty incredible to see that a human being can make saves like that.”
Teams that win Game 5 to take the lead are 211-58 (78.4 percent) winning a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.
Here are 3 keys to Game 5:
1. What if it’s Binnington in net?
Nothing changes for the Blues if Binnington gets the start. They still must forecheck to keep the Canucks from getting to their speed game. They need to play faster than the Canucks. They still must grind and win board battles.
But if Binnington starts, will the Blues get an extra jump knowing the goalie who led them to the Cup championship last year is back behind them again?
2. Canucks’ speed
The Canucks punched back at the Blues in Game 5 with their speed through the neutral zone in the second period. It led to some waves of attack, a strong presence around the net and three goals in a span of 6:23 in the second half of the period.
They stayed aggressive in the third period, got some big saves from Markstrom and locked down a one-goal lead for the 4-3 win.
It’s hard for the Canucks to skate and pressure that way for 60 minutes against the Blues, who thrive on their forecheck and creating turnovers, but short bursts of aggressiveness and speed like they had in the second can yield big results.
3. O’Reilly’s line
The Canucks did a better job at 5-on-5 against Blues center Ryan O’Reilly and his linemates, Jaden Schwartz and David Perron, in Game 5 than they had done through the first four games.
Perron was plus-2, O’Reilly plus-1 and Schwartz minus-1 in 5-on-5 shot attempts in Game 5. It was a massive difference from the first four games, when O’Reilly was plus-59, Perron was plus-58 and Schwartz was plus-44.
Doing it again will be difficult, but it could very well be the key factor either the Canucks ending the series or the Blues extending it to Game 7.
Blues projected lineup
Jaden Schwartz – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron
Oskar Sundqvist – Brayden Schenn – Tyler Bozak
Zach Sanford – Robert Thomas – Sammy Blais
Ivan Barbashev – Jacob de la Rose – Jordan Kyrou
Justin Faulk – Alex Pietrangelo
Marco Scandella – Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn – Robert Bortuzzo
Unfit to play: Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, Carl Gunnarsson
Canucks projected lineup
J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson – Jake Virtanen
Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat – Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel – Adam Gaudette — Brandon Sutter
Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle – Loui Eriksson
Alexander Edler — Troy Stecher
Quinn Hughes — Christopher Tanev
Oscar Fantenberg — Jordie Benn
Scratched: Olli Juolevi, Justin Bailey, Jalen Chatfield, Louis Domingue, Adam Gaudette, Tyler Graovac, Brogan Rafferty
Unfit to play: Micheal Ferland, Josh Leivo, Tyler Toffoli, Tyler Myers
Edler left Game 5 late in the second period after getting cut on the side of the head by Kyrou’s skate blade. He never returned, but Green said he’s hopeful he’ll be able to play Friday. … Gunnarsson missed Game 5 because he was unfit to play, Berube said. There was no update on his status prior to Game 6. … Berube said it’s unlikely Steen will be ready to play Game 6. He has missed the past three games and four of the five in the series.
NHL.com staff writer Jon Lane contributed to this report