VANCOUVER – For the first time since 2015, the Vancouver Canucks will play a Stanley Cup Playoff game tonight when they face the defending champion St. Louis Blues in Edmonton. This is Game 1 of a best of a seven Western Conference quarter-final.
The Canucks enter the series on a three-game win streak after dispatching Minnesota in four games in their preliminary round play-in series. Chris Tanev scored the series clinching goal 11 seconds into overtime last Friday night.
Quinn Hughes led all Canucks scorers – and all NHL defensemen -- in the play-in round with 1+5=6. Tanev, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat all had four points while Horvat, Tanner Pearson and Brock Boeser led the Canucks with two goals apiece against the Wild.
Jacob Markstrom went 3-1 in the preliminary round allowing nine goals on 121 shots giving him a 2.27 GAA and a 92.6% save percentage. He recorded his first career NHL post-season shutout with a 3-0 win in Game 3 against the Wild.
The Canucks are expected to go with the same line-up of forwards they used in Friday’s clincher against the Wild. Rookie Olli Juolevi was a late addition to the line-up on defense and made his NHL debut replacing Oscar Fantenberg. Fantenberg was a participant in practice on Tuesday and if he’s available tonight, he’ll likely draw back in on the blueline.
The Canucks have not appeared in the playoffs since they fell in six games to Calgary in 2015. This series marks the first time since 2002 against Detroit that the Canucks have opened the playoffs as the lower seed in a series.
This is the fourth time in franchise history the Canucks have met the Blues in the playoffs – all of them in the first round. The Canucks won in seven games in 1995 and again in 2003 and swept St. Louis in 2009.
The Blues are still looking for their first win in the Edmonton bubble after dropping their exhibition game and all three of their games in round robin action. They fell 2-1 in a shootout to Dallas on Sunday to determine their first round opponent. Robert Thomas scored the Blues lone goal in that game.
Ryan O’Reilly led the Blues in round robin scoring with 0+3 while David Perron and Colton Parayko shared the team lead with two goals apiece.
During the regular season, O’Reilly was the team’s top scorer with 12+49=61 while Perron and Brayden Schenn were the leading goal scorers with 25 each. The Blues led all NHL teams in goals from defensemen during the regular season with 45.
Due to shoulder surgery, Vladimir Tarasenko was limited to just 10 games during the regular season. He’s healthy now, but is still looking for his first point in Edmonton after dressing for two of the team’s three round robin games. Winger Sammy Blais was injured in Sunday’s round robin finale and is listed as questionable for tonight.
This series is a match-up of two of the finalists for the 2019 Calder Trophy. Elias Pettersson was named Rookie of the Year ahead of Blues goalie Jordan Binnington and Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.
The Canucks took the tightly-contested regular season series from the Blues winning two of the three games and dropping the other in overtime. The first two meetings both went beyond regulation time while the final meeting was a 2-1 game until the final second when the Canucks scored into an empty net.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE BLUES LINE-UP