1. To hear Travis Green tell it, the past three games may have been the best three games the Vancouver Canucks coach has seen from captain Bo Horvat in the three years the two have been together. Green marvelled at the two spectacular goals Horvat scored – including the overtime winner – in Friday’s 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues to put the Canucks up 2-0 in their series with the defending Stanley Cup champions. And, of course, those followed the two he netted in the series opener. It would have been easy for the coach to simply point to the two games in this series, but it’s important to remember it was Horvat who came through when the team needed him in Game 4 against Minnesota. With six minutes to play in the third period and trailing by a goal, Horvat beat Alex Stalock for the tying goal that set the stage for Chris Tanev to score the overtime winner that eliminated the Wild. Including that goal – and the four that he has scored in the first two games against St. Louis – Horvat has now accounted for five of the last 11 goals the Canucks have played in the post-season. With six playoff goals in the bubble, Horvat also leads the NHL in playoff goal-scoring one better than Connor McDavid and two clear of the rest of the field. Observers have always said Horvat was built playoff hockey and that’s been abundantly clear over the past week.

 

  1. The Canucks did well to end the game before it got too deep into overtime. With Tyler Myers leaving the game after just one shift of the third period, the team was down a defenseman. The longer Friday’s game went, the more the Canucks were forced to lean on veterans Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. According to the game sheet, Edler played 10:06 of the third period including a gruelling shift that lasted the final 2:41 of the third period. On the night, Edler logged a team-high 29:22 followed closely by Tanev at 28:38. With no post-game update on Myers status moving forward, the Canucks may be forced to make a line-up change for Sunday’s Game 3. Jordie Benn seems like he’d be the next man up to replace Myers. While Myers may not have played his best hockey in the Edmonton bubble and has clearly taken too many penalties, remember that he has been playing playoff hockey for two weeks after completing an intense two-week training camp. Benn, on the other hand, went home to Dallas to be with his fiancée for the birth of their daughter. He left camp before the end of the first week, hasn’t played an NHL game since March 4th and appeared in just seven Canucks games after Christmas. He’s a veteran, sure, but there is simply no way he can anywhere close to the top of his game – and now he could very well be injected into a spirited series and be asked to play the right side as a left-shot defenseman. Some say Benn is better on the right-side than the left, but regardless which side of the ice he plays on, he’s going to have to find the speed of the game in a hurry. It’s surely to be a significant challenge for a player who has barely played in the past eight months.

 

  1. Friday was the second straight game that Ryan O’Reilly dominated the head to head match-up against Elias Pettersson at even strength. O’Reilly may be winning the battle, but Pettersson is on the right side of the series scoreline. In 26:55 through two games with Pettersson on the ice at evens, the Canucks have been outshot 21-5, but the scoring chances only slightly favour St. Louis 9-8 in those situations and the Blues hold a slim 1-0 edge in goals to this point in the series. All of that is to say that the Blues – and particularly O’Reilly – have done a solid job keeping Pettersson in check on 5-on-5. But Pettersson, as the good ones do, is still finding a way to leave his mark on the series. He’s scored a power play goal in both games and on Friday had a nifty assist on Tanner Pearson’s second period goal with the man-advantage. Certainly, Pettersson is being shadowed by O’Reilly and over-shadowed by Bo Horvat, but he still has 2+1=3 in this series and 3+4=7 in his first six NHL post-season games. It will be interesting to see how Travis Green tries to dictate the match-ups with the Canucks having last change on Sunday and again on Monday to see if he can get Pettersson away from O’Reilly in an effort to produce more at even-strength.

 

  1. For the second straight game in this series, the Canucks won the special teams battle and also came out ahead on the scoreboard. The Canucks went two for three on the power play on Friday and also added a short-handed marker. Through the first two games against the Blues, the Canucks are now 5 for 9 (55.6%) with the man-advantage. As potent as they’ve been on the power play, the Canucks penalty killers deserve some credit for doing their jobs in Game 2. Sure, Ryan O’Reilly scored a late second period power play goal, but on the night the Blues were just one for six with the man-advantage, but a net zero considering they also got torched by Bo Horvat while on the power play. Chris Tanev and Alex Edler led the Canucks in short-handed ice time while Tyler Motte and Jay Beagle were pressed into duty repeatedly and the team’s top two penalty killing forwards had a perfect night in that role not getting scored on in 6:12 (Beagle) and 5:35 (Motte) of short-handed time. On the night, Motte played 19:00 which was nearly two minutes more than Elias Pettersson. In fact, Motte and fellow penalty killers Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson all logged more ice on the night than Pettersson. That’s the danger of taking too many penalties. The Canucks dodged the bullet on Friday night, but moving forward it’s in the team’s best interest to stay out of the box to keep the Blues off the power play, but also to allow the best players in the line-up to get into the flow of the game.

 

  1. The longer the Blues go winless in the Edmonton bubble, the tougher it’s going to be for them to get traction. Whether it’s Jordan Binnington fighting the puck and unable to come up with key saves in big moments or Vladimir Tarasenko looking like a shadow of his goal-scoring self following a lost season due to shoulder surgery, these Blues just don’t resemble the same team that steam-rolled its way to the Stanley Cup just over a year ago. St. Louis hasn’t played poorly in this series. To suggest that would be to diminish all the good the Canucks have done to surge to a 2-0 lead. Still, the Blues just haven’t hit their stride in Edmonton and now, in a significant hole, they’re quickly running out of time to recapture their game. It’s easy to say they’ll bring their best on Sunday night, but there’s no guarantee of that. They added Alex Steen and Sammy Blais to their line-up on Friday night and it didn’t change the outcome. Craig Berube doesn’t have many line-up options left beyond turning to veteran back-up goalie Jake Allen – something the coach said he would consider. Surely, St. Louis would love to play with a lead at some point. The Canucks have opened the scoring in the first 10 minutes of each of the first two games. While the Blues tied Game One on two separate occasions and battled to the buzzer to tie Game Two in the dying seconds, they haven’t held a lead and haven’t been able to force the Canucks to adjust. Let’s see what Sunday brings. If it’s more of the same for St. Louis it’s possible this series will be over much sooner than anyone would have expected.