The Vancouver Canucks have drawn the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the opening round of the 2020 postseason.
Two days after defeating the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round, the Vancouver Canucks finally learned of their first round opponent — none other than the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
The loser of Sunday’s final round robin game would face the Canucks, with the winner drawing the Calgary Flames. Vancouver was oh-so-close to drawing the banged-up Dallas Stars — probably the more desired matchup — but Joe Pavelski had other ideas.
The 36-year-old scored with 32 seconds left to force overtime. Dallas went on to win in a shootout, earning the No. 3 seed and a first round matchup with the Calgary Flames. The Blues dropped down to the No. 4 seed, setting up a meeting with the Canucks.
Now, the Blues seem like the tougher opponent on paper compared to the Stars. Not just because they’re the defending champions, and not just because they were the top team in the Western Conference during the regular season.
It’s also because there’s more star power to go around in Vladimir Tarasenko, reigning Selke and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly, superstar defenceman Alex Pietrangelo and 2019 playoff hero Jordan Binnington.
But Vancouver lost both regular season meetings to Dallas, and they went an impressive 2-0-1 against the reigning champions. The Blues also look vulnerable after losing all three round robin games, so maybe the young and energetic Canucks will be able to catch them by surprise.
2020 will mark the first playoff meeting between the two clubs since 2009. That year, the Canucks swept a surging St. Louis team, thanks to Alexandre Burrows’ overtime heroics in Game 4.
The two teams also met in the opening round of the 1995 and 2003 postseasons, with Vancouver taking both of those series in seven games.
But history is irrelevant here. These two teams are way, way different compared to their last playoff meeting. The Blues are unquestionably the favourites here, but as we saw in the qualifying round, being the favourite doesn’t mean much once the series commences .
This will be a great challenge for head coach Travis Green and the up-and-coming Canucks, who will look to bring the franchise its first official playoff series win since 2011.