ST LOUIS – The Vancouver Canucks (35-36-10) close out their 2018-19 National Hockey League season when they face the St. Louis Blues (44-28-9) in an afternoon affair at Enterprise Center. While the outcome means nothing to the visitors, the Blues are very much in the Central Division title chase and need a win today and some help from others to finish ahead of both Nashville and Winnipeg.
The Canucks return to action after a 3-2 loss in Nashville on Thursday night. Markus Granlund and Tanner Pearson both scored for the second straight game giving the Canucks a 2-0 lead with first period power play goals. Quinn Hughes collected the primary assist on both goals and now has three assists in his first four NHL games. Jacob Markstrom stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced in goal.
Defenceman Brogan Rafferty logged 12:03 in his big league debut after signing with the Canucks out of Quinnipiac University last Monday.
The Canucks' big three were held off the scoresheet on Thursday. Elias Pettersson has one assists in his past six games, Brock Boeser has two points in that span while Bo Horvat has four assists in his past seven games. Pettersson and Horvat are tied for the team lead in goals with 27 apiece, while Boeser is one back heading the season finale.
The Canucks need one goal to match last year’s offensive output of 218 on the season. This year, the team scored 123 goals in the first half of the season (3.00/game) and has seen the offense drop to 94 goals in the second half (2.35/game). The power play, however, has come to life recently producing both goals in Nashville and going 9/32 (28.1%) in the past 12 games.
The road has not been kind to the Canucks in the second half of the season. They have just five road wins in 2019 and are 3-8-2 in their past 11 as the visitors and 5-11-2 in the past 18. On the season, the Canucks have a 15-20-5 road record, but have just one regulation victory in their past 19 road games (5-1 at Colorado on Feb. 2).
With no morning skate before the 3 P.M. local time puck drop, the Canucks lineup for today won’t be revealed until closer to game time. It’s expected Thatcher Demko will get the call in goal. Demko has won back to back games and is 3-1 in his last four starts. If the California native gets the call today, he will have started five of the Canucks final 10 games.
The Blues have been the best team in hockey since the start of January. They are 29-10-5 and have collected a league-high 63 points since the flip of the calendar. They have outscored their opponents 140-96 over that span. On Jan. 2 they were 31st and dead last in the NHL standings with just 34 points.
Rookie netminder Jordan Binnington has been a huge part of the resurgence. The 25-year-old is a remarkable 23-5-1 in 31 starts since making his NHL debut on Jan. 7. He has posted eye-popping numbers -- 1.89 GAA, 927% save percentage and 5 shutouts. Binnington was named NHL Rookie of the Month for both February and March.
In his first season with the team, Ryan O’Reilly leads the Blues in scoring with 75 points (28 goals, 47 assists) while Vladimir Tarasenko leads the team with 32 goals. The Blues have 13 double-digit goal-scorers with Robert Thomas sitting on nine goals and hoping to join that group today. The 46 goals scored by Blues defencemen ranks second only to Carolina, which has 47 goals from its blueliners.
The Blues beat Philadelphia 7-3 on Thursday. Alex Steen led the way with a pair of goals, while David Perrson scored for a second consecutive game. The Blues are 3-0-1 in their past four games and 8-1-2 in their last 11. They have also won six in a row on home ice.
The Canucks beat the Blues twice in a two week span in mid-December. Brock Boeser had a hat trick and Elias Pettersson registered his second five-point game of the season in a 6-1 victory at Enterprise Center on Dec. 9. The Canucks were 5-1 winners at home on Dec. 20.
Today’s game features the top two face-off men by volume in the NHL. Horvat leads all players in the league with 1068 wins in the circle while O’Reilly is one behind heading into action today. Horvat will finish the season as the only Canuck to appear in all 82 games.
The game will also be a battle of the Schenn brothers with Luke patrolling the Canucks defence, while Brayden plays the left side on the Blues top line.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE BLUES LINE-UP