Hey Siri, play “On to the Next One” by Jay-Z.
The Canucks officially advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in five years, and it was the first series win in nine years.
It’s safe to say we’ve all grown up.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) August 8, 2020
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) August 8, 2020
— David Quadrelli (@QuadreIli) August 8, 2020
Now that the qualifying portion is over and everyone has grown up, all that remains is to wait to see who the Canucks will be facing in the round of 16.
What we do know is that it will be either the defending champion St. Louis Blues or the Dallas Stars. Two teams the Canucks have playoff history with.
The Stars and Blues will face off tomorrow in a round-robin game. Whoever loses that game, faces the Canucks in round one. It’s as simple as that.
Now let’s delve into what kind of threat each team could pose for the Canucks.
The last time the Canucks faced the Blues in the postseason came back in 2009 when Alex Burrows scored in overtime to sweep the Blues. For the Stars, it was in the epic seven-game series in Roberto Luongo’s first season in Vancouver in 2007. However, in this weird year that is 2020, past playoff history doesn’t matter, it’s more of a “what have you done for me lately” kind of thing anyway.
Core four (categories)
In four significant categories, GF/GP, GA/GP, PP%, and PK% the Canucks have held their own this season with the likes of the Blues and Stars except for in the GA/GP, but we all know the defensive issues this team has if Jacob Markstrom isn’t playing like an MVP goalie. For the PK, all three finished in the middle of the pack with the Canucks at 16th, Stars at 17th, and the Blues at 18th.
However, one clear edge among these categories is GF/GP. With the lotto line back in swing and if Tyler Toffoli is back at full health, the top six could be a handful for either team do deal with.
Canucks vs Blues
The defending Stanley Cup Champions will be hungry to keep their reign atop of the food chain, but throughout the past two seasons, the Canucks went 4-0-2. In one of those overtime losses, the Canucks forgot how to play defence.
— NHL (@NHL) November 6, 2019
Other than that blunder the Canucks have fared well against the show-me state.
The Blues will be a fierce battle for the young Canucks regardless of their regular season play. The Blues had 11 players with ten or more goals, a list that doesn’t include Vladimir Tarasenko, who was hurt for most of the year. All four lines can put the puck in the net while playing in a shutdown role, which is the DNA of the blues and what games them a dangerous team. They play big and physical and will wear down their opponent over a seven-game series.
Aquilini vs Gaglardi
Over two seasons, it has been more of Jekyll and Hyde for the lone star state. The previous year the Canucks went 3-0 and this season 0-2 against the Dallas Stars.
In the more recent history, the Canucks didn’t play well in both games against the Stars this season. They put up three goals compared to the Stars ten in the two meetings. Despite those numbers, it was a tough task for the Stars to put the puck in the net. With only Denis Gurianov hitting the 20 goal mark.
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn had 50 and 39 points, respectively, which were first and second on the team a far cry from where they would want to be. With other names like Alexander Radulov, Joe Pavelski, and even Corey Perry, you would think this team would be in the top 5 in offence instead of 26th.
What the Stars lack in offence, they bring it on defence.
Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg lead the blue line, which was one of the best in the league during the regular season, finishing the year second in goals against and goals against per games played. The goaltending tandem of Anton Khudobin — who played 30 games — and Ben Bishop, who started in 44 posted a .930 and .920 save percentage respectively.
Former Canucks assistant coach Rick Bowness might use a page from his old friend Alain Vigneault and flip a coin to see who gets the net.
Who would be better?
The Minnesota Wild play a similar game as the St. Louis Blues, which could benefit the Canucks in a seven-game tilt.
The Canucks have played better against teams above them, in general, this season and struggled against bottom teams (see Ottawa Senators game) but always bring “it” when playing top teams.
St.Louis hasn’t played well in the round-robin games thus far. With the Canucks powerplay about to explode on a non-lethal PK the Canucks special teams could put them over the edge in a series against the Blues and see them moving on to the next round.