After picking up a big Game 1 win, the Vancouver Canucks came up clutch in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead over the St. Louis Blues. Blues forwards Alex Steen and Sammy Blais returned in Game 2. Blais scored off an Alex Edler turnover to make it a 3-2 game for the Canucks. With seven seconds remaining in the third period, David Perron tied the game on a controversial tip-in. The Canucks sealed the game thanks to a breakaway by captain Bo Horvat in overtime.
Horvat Stays Hot
Horvat had another big game on Friday. In Game 1, the captain finished the game with two goals, one to open up the scoring and the other was a highlight-reel goal. In Game 2, he repeated his Game 1 performance but somehow was more impressive. He opened up the scoring once again, scoring a short-handed goal, as he deked past two Blues forwards and beat goaltender Jordan Binnington. In the overtime, he scored the game-winning goal thanks to a pass from Quinn Hughes that sent him on a breakaway.
Horvat has four goals through two games in the first-round series against the Blues. He has scored six goals and has eight points in six games since the start of the Qualifying Round. His six goals are the most across the league in the postseason so far. This is the type of postseason performance expected from the 25-year-old, who is serving his first year as the captain of the Canucks.
The Lotto Line vs O’Reillys Line
Ryan O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe and the Selke Trophy in the 2018-19 season. The two-way forward has been a problem for the Canucks first line, dubbed the Lotto Line, so far in this first-round series. The line features Elias Pettersson, J.T Miller and Brock Boeser. Although they have been successful, combining for 10 points over the first two games, all but one of those points have come through the powerplay. The matchup problems with O’Reilly’s line comes during 5-on-5 play.
The Lotto Line was outshot 1-6 in the first period of Game 1. They were held in their zone by the O’Reilly line for a good part of the game. With the first change in Games 3 and 4, head coach Travis Greene will have to take full advantage of sending out his first line when it is most advantageous to them.
Canucks’ Power Play Will Make You Pay
The Canucks’ power play has scored a combined five goals in nine opportunities through Games 1 and 2. In Game 2, Tanner Pearson scored the first power-play goal for the Canucks off of a sweet feed from Pettersson, to extend the lead to 2-1. Pettersson continued his power-play dominance by scoring and extending the lead to 3-1.
The Canucks’ power play has been their best weapon all season long, ranking fourth in the NHL. With their first line struggling at 5-on-5, the power play has come out strong, scoring on 55% of their opportunities. If the Canucks are going to win this series against the Blues, they will have to continue their success with the man advantage.
The Canucks struggled to stay out of the box in Game 2 as the Blues had six power plays throughout the game. In the second period, the Blues drew four penalties. Luckily enough for the Canucks they only gave up one power-play goal, but that goal came off a questionable double minor given to Jay Beagle. Blais, in his first game back, hit Brandon Sutter between the numbers, and Beagle came to his defense. The Blues were given a power play, instead of both players getting offsetting penalties.
Since the Blues only scored one power-play goal on the night, the penalty kill was not the problem. The problem for the Canucks was that their star players didn’t play a lot. Pettersson played fewer minutes than Loui Eriksson and Sutter, while Hughes played fewer minutes than third pairing defender Oscar Fantenberg. Pettersson played three fewer minutes than he had in Game 1, and Hughes played a minute less than he had in Game 1. Taking undisciplined penalties could easily cost the Canucks a game.
Myer’s Potential Injury Provides Opportunity
Tyler Myers left Game 2 after a rough hit from Brayden Schenn, and he did not return. Green did not give an update on the defenseman’s condition after Game 2, but there is now an opportunity for someone else to step into the lineup. Jordie Benn recently joined the team in the bubble and has been skating with the team since Wednesday. The veteran defenseman is known for his versatility of being able to play on his offside, which is the right side. (from ‘Canucks get good value (and a great beard) with Jordie Benn signing,’ Vancouver Courier, 07/01/2019)
The Canucks can also look into adding in right side defenseman, Brogan Rafferty. He has been one of the best defensemen for the franchise’s minor league team. He had 45 points in 57 games with the Utica Comets and could finally get a shot at playing with the main roster. There is a chance that the 25-year-old defender will get a good look next season, with either Troy Stecher or Chris Tanev potentially leaving through free agency. This could be a good time for Green to give the young defender some playing time.
Canucks Can Extend Series Lead
Up 2-0 against the Blues, the Canucks will have a big opportunity in back-to-back games to end the series. The Canucks have looked impressive so far in the series. They’ve found a way to pull of two big wins against the defending Stanely Cup champions. Their young guns have shown up in a big way, particularly Horvat, who’s is on fire to start this series. The Canucks will have an opportunity to extend their lead on Sunday night, before playing Game 4 on Monday.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.