3 Keys: Canucks vs. Blues, Game 5 of Western First Round


No. 5 Canucks vs. No. 4 Blues

10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, FS-MW

Best-of-7 series tied, 2-2

The St. Louis Blues will try to win their third straight game against the Vancouver Canucks when they play Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday.

Blues center Ryan O’Reilly has points in three straight games (three goals, three assists), including on each of St. Louis’ past five goals (two goals, three assists). He had two goals and an assist in a 3-1 win in Game 4 on Monday.

“He’s thinking one step ahead of everyone out there,” Canucks defenseman Christopher Tanev said. “He does everything well from face-offs to winning board battles to scoring goals. He’s a full 200-foot player and we’ve got to find a way to slow down that line.”

Vancouver won Games 1 and 2 behind four goals from center Bo Horvat, but he was shutout and limited to a combined four shots on goal in Games 3 and 4.

The Canucks have been outshot 86-64 in the past two games.

Here are 3 keys to Game 5:


1. O’Reilly’s line

The big question facing the Canucks in the aftermath of Game 4 is can they figure out how to slow down the Blues’ top line of O’Reilly, David Perron and Jaden Schwartz?

That line combined for 30 shots on goal and 48 total shot attempts in the past two games. O’Reilly was plus-32 (44-12), Perron plus-31 (45-14) and Schwartz plus-25 (40-15) in 5-on-5 shot attempts.

Canucks coach Travis Green said he’d like to see O’Reilly’s line have to play in the defensive zone for a few of their shifts. To do that, Vancouver will have to start winning some board battles against them.


2. Special teams

Special teams have been a huge part of this series and the swing in momentum is a direct result of the swing on the power play and penalty kill.

The Canucks won Games 1 and 2 largely because they dominated on special teams, outscoring the Blues 6-2, including going 5-for-9 with the man-advantage and adding a shorthanded goal. 

The Blues won Games 3 and 4 for similar reasons, especially in Game 4, when they went 7-for-7 on the kill and 2-for-5 on the power play. 

It’ll be interesting to see if the Canucks make any adjustments on their power play after Game 4, or if they try to stick with what worked so well in the first three games of the series, when they were 6-for-11.

“Big thing for us is clearing the puck when we have an opportunity,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We were much better with that [in Game 4]. It’s not fun when you’ve got to keep breaking the puck out.”


3. Forecheck

The Blues have gotten better in each game of the series in part because of their forecheck, which has allowed them to control the middle of the ice in the past two games, force turnovers and win board battles.

They have stopped the Canucks from generating speed through the neutral zone, which is a big part of their game. Horvat said he thinks the Canucks answer must be to give the Blues a taste of their own medicine.

“They are relentless, but I think we are too,” Horvat said. “I think that’s the identity of our team too. … I think giving it back is what is going to make us successful. That’s what made us successful in the first two games. We’ve got to get back to that.”


Canucks projected lineup

J.T. MillerElias PetterssonBrock Boeser

Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Loui Eriksson

Antoine RousselBrandon SutterJake Virtanen

Tyler MotteJay BeagleZack MacEwen

Alexander EdlerTroy Stecher

Quinn Hughes — Christopher Tanev

Oscar FantenbergJordie Benn

Jacob Markstrom

Thatcher Demko

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


Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron

Jordan KyrouBrayden SchennTyler Bozak

Zach SanfordRobert ThomasSammy Blais

Oskar SundqvistJacob de la RoseMackenzie MacEachern

Carl Gunnarsson — Alex Pietrangelo

Marco ScandellaColton Parayko

Vince DunnJustin Faulk

Jake Allen

Jordan Binnington

Scratched: Troy Brouwer, Ivan Barbashev, Ville Husso, Robert Bortuzzo, Klim Kostin, Austin Poganski, Niko Mikkola, Derrick Pouliot, Jake Walman

Unfit to play: Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen


Status report

Tarasenko is out for the remainder of the first round. The forward returned to St. Louis on Tuesday to have his surgically repaired left shoulder evaluated. … Steen has missed the past two games and three of four. … Myers could miss his third straight game.

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