The Vancouver Canucks will square off against the St. Louis Blues in their first game following the All-Star Break.
Following a weekend of All-Star festivities filled with incredible Quinn Hughes dekes, a 102.4 mph Elias Pettersson and a memorable shootout performance by Jacob Markstrom, the Vancouver Canucks headed back home to join the rest of their teammates after an eight-day break.
I’m sure the three Vancouver All-Stars rested well and caught some shut-eye during the flight. They must have been pushed to the brink of exhaustion after being doused in a shower of compliments from the likes of Patrick Kane, Nathan MacKinnon and oh, ‘The Great One’ himself, Wayne Gretzky.
Now that the past weekend is done, it’s time for Vancouver (27-18-4) to get their sights set back on continuing their recent winning ways against a formidable opponent in the reigning Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues (30-11-8).
The Canucks and Blues share a 1-0-1 record against each other so far, with both games needed extra time to settle things. It seems as though the Canucks forth some of their strongest efforts when going head-to-head with an established hard-working team like the Blues, so it is expected that this young Vancouver squad will compete boisterously tonight.
With Vancouver momentarily sitting perched atop their division by a razor-thin margin with 58 points, every point is critical if they wish to reach their ultimate goal of playing postseason hockey. This is the last time these teams will clash in the 2019-2020 regular season.
Players to Watch
Bo Horvat: Coming off of one of his most impressive stretches in his young career from Christmas to the All-Star break, the 24-year-old captain will plan to maintain his high level of performance tonight. In the past nine games, Horvat leads the Vancouver Canucks in points, even-strength points and faceoff percentage with a strong 58.9 percent win rate on the draw.
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David Perron: In his 15th season in the league, Perron can finally add an All-Star nomination to his NHL resume at the age of 31.
He’s been nothing short of spectacular for Blues this season, leading the team in goals (21) and points (49).
He’s also been lights out with the man-advantage on a St. Louis club that boasts the league’s fourth-best power play (25.3 percent). Look for him to create scoring chances and shoot plenty of deadly wristers in tonight’s game.
Quinn Hughes: The rookie defenceman was nothing short of exceptional in his first All-Star appearance. It was his coming-out party to the rest of the NHL and their fans. Hughes showed them what Vancouver fans already knew — that he is for real, and will be for many years to come. It’ll be an interesting underlying story to watch how he performs now that the All-Star distractions are behind him.
Jordan Binnington: The netminder put on a show for the hometown crowd in St. Louis over the weekend, winning the NHL All-Star save streak competition. The Blues’ last game on Jan. 18 against the Colorado Avalanche saw Binnington get pulled halfway through the contest after allowing four goals on 11 shots in a 5-3 loss. He’ll plan to bounce back in a big way in his first game since then.
Prediction: 3-2 Blues
Although both teams received an identical eight-day rest period, Vancouver will come out rusty in comparison to the Blues, who have been through every trial and tribulation imaginable over the past year.
Their offensive depth and defensively-sound structure may be too much for the home team to overcome. However, the teams’ prior two matchups have been hard-fought games separated by only one goal, so I expect this one to be an exciting nail-biter until the final horn.
Welcome back Canucks hockey, we missed you. Next stop: Playoffs.