No. 5 Canucks vs. No. 4 Blues
10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, FS-MW
The St. Louis Blues’ quest to potentially repeat as Stanley Cup champions begins Wednesday, when they play the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the West hub city.
St. Louis was 0-2-1 in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
“We’ve had a lot of downtime,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We’re excited to finally get this going and get on schedule.”
The Canucks are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, earning their way in by defeating the Minnesota Wild in four games in their best-of-5 qualifier series.
Vancouver won the last three games of the series and used 10 players who previously had never played in an NHL postseason series.
“I thought the previous series was a good warmup for us for sure,” Canucks coach Travis Green said.
Teams that win Game 1 are 478-219 (68.6 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series.
Here are 3 keys to Game 1:
1. Vancouver’s discipline
The Canucks led the League with 28 minor penalties and 78 penalty minutes in the Qualifiers. They were 19-for-22 on the penalty kill (86.4 percent).
Staying out of the penalty box while maintaining their physicality will be a focal point and a tightrope they’re going to have to walk, especially defenseman Tyler Myers, who leads all skaters in the postseason with nine penalties and 18 penalty minutes.
“He can’t continue to take that many, but I don’t want him not playing physical,” Green said. “He’s got to be physical. He’s got to be big in front of our net. I think he’s been unlucky with a couple calls.”
2. Finding the next level
The Blues played three round-robin games, all with the knowledge that they would be in the playoffs regardless of the outcomes of those games. The Canucks enter this series having already been in a playoff hockey scenario in the Qualifiers.
Blues coach Craig Berube said he saw some things in his team’s game in those three games, all losses, that are cause for alarm, but part of that might have to do with what was at stake, which wasn’t close to what the Canucks were playing for.
The Blues know as well, if not better, than any team in the League the level it takes to win in the playoffs. Their ability to flip the switch to get there could determine how Game 1 goes for them.
The Blues and Canucks are two of the best face-off teams in the League. St. Louis won a League-high 59.6 of its face-offs in the round-robin; Vancouver won 55.0 percent of its face-offs against Minnesota.
Each has one of the best centers at the dot in Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis) and Bo Horvat (Vancouver). O’Reilly won 72.9 percent of his face-offs in the round-robin (43 of 59); Horvat won 58.3 percent (49 of 84) in the Qualifiers.
Possession could dictate how this series is played, whether the Canucks will be able to utilize their speed and skill with the puck or if the Blues will be able to force Vancouver into playing in its own end.
Canucks projected lineup
J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Loui Eriksson
Antoine Roussel — Brandon Sutter — Jake Virtanen
Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle — Zack MacEwen
Alexander Edler — Troy Stecher
Quinn Hughes — Christopher Tanev
Olli Juolevi — Tyler Myers
Scratched: Justin Bailey, Jordie Benn, Jalen Chatfield, Louis Domingue, Adam Gaudette, Tyler Graovac, Brogan Rafferty
Unfit to play: Oscar Fantenberg, Micheal Ferland, Josh Leivo, Tyler Toffoli
Blues projected lineup
Jaden Schwartz — Brayden Schenn — Vladimir Tarasenko
Zach Sanford — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron
Jordan Kyrou — Robert Thomas — Tyler Bozak
Alexander Steen — Oskar Sundqvist — Troy Brouwer
Carl Gunnarsson — Alex Pietrangelo
Marco Scandella — Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn — Justin Faulk
Scratched: Ivan Barbashev, Ville Husso, Jacob de la Rose, Robert Bortuzzo, Klim Kostin, Mackenzie MacEachern , Austin Poganski, Niko Mikkola, Derrick Pouliot, Jake Walman, Ville Husso
Unfit to play: Sammy Blais
Toffoli has not resumed skating with the team. He’ll miss his fourth straight game. … Blais is day-to-day. He sustained an injury in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars on Sunday. … Fantenberg was expected to skate Wednesday morning, after which a determination would be made about his availability. He’d likely replace Juolevi if he can play. … Barbashev could return to Edmonton on Friday, Berube said. He is in St. Louis with his wife for the birth of their first child Monday.