Stanley Cup Playoffs: St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks series preview

Ryan O'Reilly #90 of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Ryan O'Reilly #90 of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /
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The fourth seed St. Louis Blues will battle the seventh seed Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues came into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference. They lost all three games in the Round Robin series. The Vancouver Canucks are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015.

In their Qualifying Round series against the 10th seeded Minnesota Wild, the Canucks were shutout in Game 1 before taking the next three to close out the physical, heavy-hitting series. Vancouver’s playoff series win was their first since winning the Western Conference Finals in 2011.

This series features two teams that are polar opposites of each other from an experience standpoint. The Blues come in with a wealth of established veteran players and playoff experience. Since the 2011-2012 season, they have made the playoffs in all but one season.

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They know exactly what it takes to come together and grind out a playoff season to win the ultimate prize, finally climbing the top of the mountain last June for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in its history. A balanced attack offensively and one of the top defensive teams in the league.

The Canucks have only made the postseason four times since that 2011 Stanley Cup Finals appearance, losing in the First Round every time. A reloaded, young team that turned their losing seasons and high draft choices into an explosive unit with a tremendous amount of firepower of mostly homegrown talent. Vancouver has exceptional team speed for a fast-paced offensive attack and a defensive unit that can push the tempo up the ice.

Looking at the stats from the regular season, there are a lot of similarities between these two teams.

Vancouver won the regular-season series two games to one. The Canucks won 4-3 in a Shootout victory in October on the road, Blues won 2-1 in November on the road and Canucks won 3-1 in January at home. All the games in this series will take place in Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The Canucks and Blues season goal amount was only separated by one goal (Canucks 224-223), Power Play percentage separated by .1 (Blues 24.3-24.2), Penalty Kill percentage separated by 1.2 (Canucks 80.5-79.3) and both teams were in the Top 6 overall in Faceoff win percentage (Canucks 54%-51.6%). The biggest degree of separation is the Blues gave up 190 goals against while the Canucks had 214 goals against.

Forwards

Reigning Conn Smythe and Selke Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly lead the Blues with 61 points in the regular season. Forwards David Perron, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz all had 57+ points on the season. A balanced scoring attack from a veteran forward crop that lost star winger Vladimir Tarasenko in October. Tarasenko played two of the three Round Robin games and looks ready to go into the First Round.

Off-season acquisition J.T. Miller had a breakout season, leading this young stable of talented forwards with 72 points on the season. Elias Petterson and team captain Bo Horvat had 53+ points and key contributions from Tanner Pearson and Brock Boeser, the latter missing 12 games due to injury. Trade deadline acquisition Tyler Toffoli missed the last 2 games of the Qualifying Round series and availability is in question heading into the First Round.

Advantage: Canucks

Defense

The Blues boast a strong defensive unit of veterans lead by team Captain Alex Pietrangelo. Colton Parayko and offseason acquisitions Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella headline a defensive corps that was 7th in the league in goals against. The Round Robin was a different story so it remains to be seen if they can keep up the same efficiency from the regular season.

The Canucks have Calder Finalist Quinn Hughes who broke out with a 53 point rookie campaign to lead all rookies regardless of position. He is also tried for the most points after the Qualifying Round with 6. A game breaker that can impact a game from both ends of the ice. The Canucks have a lot of scoring from their defensive unit but were tied for 16th in the league in goals against.

Advantage: Blues

Goaltending

The Blues goaltending tandem of Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen is definitely the better tandem in this series, as proven by the 7th ranking in goals against and the second-half surge last season and playoff season from Binnington. They split duties during the Round Robin and still kept the games close even with the heavy workload of shots on goal.

Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom is a workhorse that missed some time towards the end of the regular season before the stoppage. He has hot and cold streaks historically but when he is on, he is the best goaltender in this series.

Even though Binnington played 7 more games than Markstrom during the regular season, Binnington only had 10 more shots on goals against for a .912 save percentage to Markstrom’s .918 save percentage.

Advantage: Blues

Series prediction

Canucks win the series in 6 games.

If the NHL has taught us anything throughout the years, it’s that upsets are very possible. A bold prediction that can bust many NHL Bracket Challenge entries.  Although arguably all positional comparisons and experience is on the Blues favor, this Canucks team is filled with high-end talent that can single-handedly break a game open and quickly.

Next. First Round Predictions. dark

Inexperienced, yes, very much so. If Toffoli can play, Markstrom steals a game or two with exceptional play and they turn games into old-time western shoot outs, they have enough game-breaking firepower to advance to the next round.