As fun as the play-in round against the Minnesota Wild was (we’re not sure what’s more enjoyable, the actual win or the fact that we won’t have to watch the Wild in the playoffs), it’s now time for something completely different.
That would be the actual playoffs, which the Canucks haven’t been in since 2015 (and haven’t won a round in since 2011). And it would also be the St. Louis Blues, the defending Stanley Cup champions who, unlike the plucky but not especially talented Minnesota Wild, are very good.
So let’s get into what we think we’ll see from the Canucks’ first playoff action in way too long.
Elias Pettersson vs. Jordan Binnington
Binnington will forever be remembered in Canuckland for saying he deserved the Calder Trophy over Pettersson last year (spoiler alert, he didn’t). About the only person who agreed with the Blues goaltender was Don Cherry, and that’s just not a place you ever want to be in.
You have to think that Pettersson is going to be ready to roll after putting up four points in as many games against the Wild. And if we know anything about the Swedish youngster, he’s an absolute killer that no doubt remembers Binnington slighting him.
Binnington only posted a .912 save percentage in 50 games this year, he’s certainly beatable.
Bo Horvat vs. Ryan O’Reilly
Blues coach Craig Berube may want to get his top centre O’Reilly out there against Pettersson, but these two are definitely going to see a lot of each other. O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe last year and is one of the league’s better all-around forwards. He’s going to make life hard for whichever Canucks centre he matches up against.
Horvat also had a great series against the Wild with four points, but he might be without Brock Boeser on his wing. Can he push Tanner Pearson and Loui Eriksson to compete against a stacked Blues squad?
The bottom of the roster battle
You have to be deep throughout the lineup to win a Stanley Cup. You don’t necessarily have to be deep to win one round though. And that’s good, because this is like the Pacific Ocean vs. your backyard kiddie pool when it comes to depth.
The Canucks have more top-end talent and will try to ride it. But two-thirds of their defensive corps and half of their forward group will likely be in over their heads against a fast, big Blues team that doesn’t dominate possession but also doesn’t make many mistakes.
Coming in hot vs. Starting cold
Like an earlier matchup today featuring the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, this features a team coming in blazing hot from the play-in round against one that had a lacklustre (if we’re being kind) round robin.
The Blues looked atrocious in the round robin, losing all three games and being dominated for stretches. Can they simply turn it on like many have suggested? (And like the Bruins did against the Hurricanes?)
This is going to be a fun series, and we expect Game 1 to be fast and competitive. While acknowledging that Vancouver is pretty heavy underdogs to win the series (and this game), If there’s any contest in which the Canucks surprise St. Louis, it’s this one. Put us down for an against-the-odds 3-2 Canucks win in OT to get those Robson parade routes planned before reality and the Blues’ playoff experience has a couple days to kick in.