Tale of the Tape: Canucks vs. Blues
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Conf. Seeding: Third
Season Series: 2-2-0
Conf. Seeding: Sixth
Season Series: 2-2-0
|For the Canucks…
After a one year absence from the playoffs, Roberto Luongo returns for his second foray into the NHL’s post-season and his first as Captain of the Vancouver Canucks. If there were any questions regarding Luongo’s play heading into playoffs, all those were answered the final week of the regular season as Luongo led his team to three consecutive victories surrendering just one goal in that span. He concluded the regular season having not given up a goal in the last 145:46. The 6’3”, 205 lbs. netminder finished the regular season with a record of 33-13-7 with a 2.34 GAA and a .920 save percentage along with a career-high and team record nine shutouts.
The Montreal, Quebec native has appeared in three of his team’s four regular season games against the Blues this season posting a 2-1-0 record with a 2.67 GAA and a .911 save percentage. He has given up eight goals against on 90 shots in the season series. In 12 career playoff games, Luongo has a 5-7 record with a 1.77 GAA and a .942 save percentage.
|For the Blues…
For nearly the entire second half of the regular season, the St. Louis Blues have been riding the hot play of Chris Mason to get them into the playoffs and they’ll need to continue to do that if they hope to advance past round one. The 6’0”, 195 lbs. goaltender, who has started the last 33 consecutive regular season games posting an impressive 24-8-6 record down the stretch, finished the regular season with a record of 27-21-7 with a 2.41 GAA and a .916 save percentage along with six shutouts. Mason is returning to the post-season for the fifth consecutive season (four with Nashville, one with St. Louis) but will be counted on as the number one netminder for just the second time in those five trips.
The Red Deer, Alberta native has appeared in three regular season games versus the Canucks this season posting a 1-2-0 record with a 3.44 GAA and a .863 save percentage. He has given up 10 goals on 73 total shots in the season series. In five career playoff games all with Nashville during the 2006 playoffs, Mason has a 1-4 record with a 3.45 GAA and a .901 save percentage.
No major injuries at the conclusion of the regular season. Players who missed the final regular season game are: D Kevin Bieksa (flu) and LW Taylor Pyatt (personal).
D Eric Brewer (back), D Erik Johnson (knee), LW Paul Kariya (hip), and LW D.J. King (shoulder) were on the injury reserve list at the end of the regular season. Kariya is hoping to receive clearance to return for the playoffs.
Two of the NHL’s hottest teams will do battle in a Western Conference Quarter-Final series when the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks face off against the sixth-seeded St. Louis Blues.
Since February 3rd, the Canucks have been on a tear posting a staggering 23-7-2 record while, on the other side, no NHL team has been better than the Blues in the second half of the season who have posted a 25-9-7 record over the last 41 games.
In terms of the regular season series, the two teams were deadlocked with two wins a piece with each team earning a win on home ice and on the road. No other NHL team heading into the playoffs has posted a better record than the Blues over the last 10 games as St. Louis finished the regular season with an 8-1-1 record. The Canucks aren’t too far behind concluding their regular season with a 6-3-1 mark. Both teams won their final three games heading into the post-season.
Among Western Conference teams that qualified for the playoffs, the Canucks finished with the fifth highest goal totals in the regular season 246 – 13 goals more than the Blues finished with. The Canucks were led this season by Daniel (31-51-82) and Henrik Sedin (22-60-82) who both finished with 82 points on the season, while the Blues’ leading points scorer was Brad Boyes with 72 points (33-39-72), 18 points more than second place David Backes (31-23-54).
The deciding factor may be which team’s leading scorers can manage to transfer their regular season prowess into the post-season. Four of the Blues’ top five scorers will be making their NHL debuts (Boyes, Backes, Perron, Berglund) while all of Vancouver’s top five have tasted NHL playoffs in the past, albeit Ryan Kesler’s previous playoff experience is just one game.
The Canucks held a slight edge in goals in the season series out-scoring the Blues 15-14 over four games. Daniel and Henrik Sedin shared the team lead in scoring versus St. Louis each finishing with one goal and five points. Blues’ forward Patrick Berglund led all players in the season series with six points (1-5-6).
Of the teams that qualified for the playoffs in the West, the Canucks gave up the third fewest goal totals with 220 goals against behind only the San Jose Sharks and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues surrendered 233 goals in the regular season, and are just one of two teams in the Western Conference playoff picture that did not manage to score more goals than they gave up during the regular season.
Vancouver’s top shutdown pair of Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo were easily the most effective blueliners against the Blues this season. The duo was a combined plus-eight and had five points (2-3-5) between them, four of which belonged to Willie Mitchell. The Blues’ top defenceman in Barret Jackman struggled against the Canucks in the regular season, going minus-five in four games played. Carlo Colaiacovo was the top rearguard for the Blues versus Vancouver this season, earning four assists and a plus-one rating in an average 21:39 of ice-time.
The experience factor may again prove to be the biggest difference. All of Vancouver’s top-six defencemen have had NHL playoff experience (Alex Edler being the most inexperienced with just three games under his belt) while four of the Blues’ top-six in the regular season (excluding Eric Brewer who is currently sidelined) will be making their NHL playoff debuts: Jeff Woywitka, Carlo Colaiacovo, Roman Polak and Mike Weaver.
One area the Blues may have a decided advantage in this series is on specialty teams. The Blues finished the regular season in the top-ten of the League in both the power play (20.5 percent efficiency) and penalty kill (83.8 percent efficiency) while the Canucks were middle of the pack in the NHL clicking on 18.8 percent of their power plays and killing off 81.4 percent of their penalties.
The Blues also won the special teams battle head-to-head. They scored on five of their 19 man-advantage opportunities over the four games, while they surrendered just three goals on 14 short-handed situations.
The team that manages to have the best success away from their home rink will be the one that ultimately manages to come out of this series. Home has been very sweet for both of these teams during the regular season with the Canucks finishing 24-12-5 at GM Place while the Blues posting a 23-13-5 record at the Scottrade Center, but overall the Canucks have been the better road warriors going 21-15-5 in enemy territory while the Blues have gone 18-18-5 away from home.
Recent playoff history between these two teams would suggest the same as well. In the 14 previous playoff meetings between the Canucks and Blues, the road team has been victorious in half of the contests.
WHERE TO FIND THE BOYS
Each game in this Western Conference Quarter-Final series is available coast-to-coast in Canada on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and for French-language viewers on RDS. For fans in the United States, the entire series will be broadcasted on the VERSUS network.
By capturing the 2009 Northwest Division Championship, the Canucks have now won the title three times since the division was first formed during the 1998.99 season. Overall, it is the sixth time in team history the Canucks have won a division championship after previously winning the Smythe Division Championship three times (1975, 1992, 1993) and the Northwest Division Championship twice prior to this season (2004, 2007). A division title has tended to be a good omen for the Canucks in the playoffs as three of the previous five times they have captured the division, they have gone on to win a playoff round (they’ve advanced to the second round four times overall if you include 1975 playoffs when they received a first-round bye for winning their division).
This series marks the third time in history that the Canucks and Blues have gone head-to-head in a post-season meeting. Both of the previous meetings took place in the Western Conference Quarter-Final Round and while both series were highly-intense, seven-game series, the Canucks managed to emerge victorious in both previous meetings. In 1995, the third-seeded Blues (28-15-5) were up-ended by the sixth seeded Canucks (18-18-12) while most recently in 2003, the fourth-seeded Canucks (45-23-14) managed to rebound from a 3-1 series deficit to overcome the fifth-seeded Blues (41-24-17).
4 - Players on the active Vancouver roster that have never appeared in an NHL playoff game: Kyle Wellwood, Mason Raymond, Rick Rypien, and Jason LaBarbera.
12 - Players on the active Vancouver roster to have appeared previously in a playoff game for the Canucks: Mattias Ohlund, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Sami Salo, Taylor Pyatt, Alex Burrows, Willie Mitchell, Jannik Hansen, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo.
13 - Players on the active St. Louis roster to have never appeared in an NHL playoff game (15 including injured players D.J. King and Erik Johnson): Brad Boyes, David Backes, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alexander Steen, Jay McClement, Jeff Woywitka, Roman Polak, Mike Weaver, Tyson Strachan, and Ben Bishop.
22 - Times in the history of the Vancouver Canucks that they have qualified for the NHL playoffs.
25 - Career playoff points for Mattias Ohlund (8-17-25) in 42 games, the Canucks’ active playoff points leader.
32 - All-time playoff series the Canucks have been involved in team history. The Canucks have won 11 playoff series all-time.
56 - All-time playoff series the Blues have been involved in team history. The Blues have won 22 playoff series all-time.
83 - Career playoff games played by Mats Sundin – the leader among all Canucks’ players. In those 83 career playoff games, Sundin has recorded 74 points (35-39-74) and 72 penalty minutes. He also has seven game-winning goals.
167 - All-time playoff games for the Canucks franchise. The Canucks have an all-time record of 71-96 in the post-season.
298 - All-time playoff games for the Blues franchise. The Blues have an all-time record of 137-161 in the post-season.
Game Notes on Canucks.com are compiled by Daniel Fung. Fung has been involved with Canucks.com since 2007 and is also a featured writer for Canucks Magazine.