The St. Louis Blues picked up their first win of the 2020 Postseason in Game 3 against the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks hold a 2-1 series lead after their 3-2 overtime loss. The Blues had quite a few roster changes on Sunday night – Jake Allen got the nod over Jordan Binnington, who has had a rough start in the playoffs. The club also subbed out Vladimir Tarasenko, Troy Brouwer, and Alex Steen for Jacob de la Rose, Mackenzie MacEachern, and Jordan Kyrou.
J.T Miller scored his third playoff goal on the power play to open up the scoring for the night before Justin Faulk and David Perron scored two goals to give the Blues their first lead of the series. Elias Pettersson quickly answered back by tying the game up in the second period, but Brayden Schenn won the game for the Blues in overtime two days after the Canucks picked up an OT win of their own in Game 2.
Canucks Core Is Buzzing
The Canucks’ core has been impressive throughout the playoffs so far. Miller’s second-period goal was assisted by Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. The first Canucks goal of the night extended Pettersson’s and Hughes’ point streak to six games, while Miller increased his streak to four games.
Hughes and Pettersson’s nine points put them in second in league scoring for the 2020 Postseason. Hughes also became the third rookie defenseman to score nine points through his first seven playoff games. Brock Boeser has seven points in six games, and Bo Horvat has been red hot as well. The captain has eight points so far in the 2020 Playoffs, which is third on the team. Jacob Markstrom had a great night on Sunday, stopping 46 shots. Markstrom managed to keep his team afloat as the Blues dominated play for most of the night before the Canucks eventually lost in OT.
Lotto Line’s Best Game
Through the first two games, the Lotto Line, featuring Pettersson, Miller and Boeser, has been matched up against Ryan O’Reilly’s line, which had success in holding the Lotto Line in its zone in the first two games. In Game 3, the Canucks had the advantage of last change, giving their first line an advantage. Head coach Travis Green took advantage of last change, providing Pettersson with a lot more scoring opportunities.
In Games 1 and 2, Pettersson struggled to get a shot on net during 5-on-5 play but scored his first 5-on-5 goal of the series in Game 3. While playing against O’Reilly’s line in Game 3, Pettersson’s only generated three shots for, while allowing eight shots against in 9:57. While playing against other lines, he managed to generate 13 shots for and only allow two shots against in 10:51.
In Game 4, Green must find more ways to get his first line away from the Blues’ shutdown centre. Pettersson’s line will dominate if they are not matched up with O’Reilly’s line. The matchup between the two lines will be the difference-maker for the remainder of the series.
Physical Blues and David Perron
In my Game 1 takeaways, I noted that Perron will be a problem for the Canucks throughout this series. That was obvious in Game 3 as the forward scored an amazing goal to give the Blues their first lead of the series.
Perron and Troy Stecher were given roughing minors after being involved in a scrum in the third period. The Blues forward will continue to be a problem, and how the club reacts to him throughout the series will be important. The Canucks bench loved that Stecher stood up for himself against Perron. This version of the Canucks are very close, and moments like that only bring them closer.
Canucks Bottom Six
The Canucks bottom six has struggled to score a goal through three games against the Blues, although Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte had good games defensively in Game 3. If the Canucks are going to make a good run in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their bottom six will have to contribute offensively.
Jake Virtanen has had an underwhelming performance throughout the playoffs. The forward finished with a career-high 18 goals and 36 points this season but has been a disappointment since the start of the training camp 2.0. Virtanen had one noticeable play Sunday night as he stole the puck from Alex Pietrangelo but couldn’t score on a partial breakaway. Later he took an undisciplined tripping penalty in overtime. The forward out of Abbotsford, BC only played one shift in the third and did not play in OT. Adam Gaudette will likely be subbed in for him in Game 4.
Game 3 featured amazing goaltending on both ends of the rink. Markstrom kept the Canucks alive throughout the game posting a .939 save percentage. Allen stepped in for Binnington, making 39 saves and posting a .951 SV%.
With Game 4 being the second half of a back-to-back, it will be interesting to see if either team decides to give their goalies a break. The Canucks would have to play Thatcher Demko, which may not be the right move. Demko was understandably unable to replace Markstrom when the Swede went down in February. Markstrom did start for the team’s back-to-back games in the qualifying round, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Green goes with his trusty starter again in Game 4.
The Blues, on the other hand, had Binnington, who led the team to the Stanley Cup last season, on the bench in Game 3. He has not looked like the same goalie as last season, though, posting a .862 SV% and 4.27 goals-against average so far in the 2020 Postseason. Going back to him could be risky for the Blues, and it is something all Canucks fans wouldn’t mind seeing right now.
Game 4 Will Be Huge for Both Teams
The Canucks lost a close Game 3, but there are a few things that they could change. A change in the bottom six is needed for offensive production. Green will have to decide if Virtanen deserves another chance or if it is Gaudette’s time to get the bottom six going offensively. With Pettersson only playing one shift in OT, Green’s deployment of his players was very questionable. The coach’s poor deployment includes playing Motte more minutes than Miller and the Swedish forward.
Game 4 will be a very important game for both teams. If the Canucks win, they will regain some of the momentum they lost in the Game 3 OT loss and take a 3-1 lead. If the Blues win, it’s back to being an even series at 2-2. Both teams have important decisions regarding goaltenders since it is a back-to-back game. Game 4 is on Monday at 7:30 P.M. PST.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.