In this edition of Vancouver Canucks News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at how the team’s injuries are having an impact. I’ll also look at some of the key players who have allowed this surprising young team to take a 3-2 series lead against a strong and physical St. Louis Blues squad in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Item One: Tyler Toffoli Might Be Ready for Game 6
Although there’s no official word, and the team has offered no timetable, it seems Tyler Toffoli is getting closer to returning to the lineup. He might be part of tonight’s Game 6 lineup against the Blues. It’s been hard to get specific injury updates, but the last word we had was that his recovery is proceeding and he might be back soon.
Toffoli hasn’t played since Aug. 2 after suffering a “lower-body” injury in Game 1 of their play-in series against the Minnesota Wild. The team would love to have him back alongside Bo Horvat. After he arrived from the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline, Toffoli scored 10 points in 10 games and looked every bit the high-end winger the team traded for. He also brings playoff experience as a member of the Los Angeles Kings team that won the Cup in 2014.
Item Two: Tyler Myers Out Until Round 2
If the Canucks want to see Tyler Myers play again this season, they’re going to have to beat the Blues, which means they’ll have to win one of the next two games against the defending Cup champions. The word is that Myers has a “slightly separated shoulder.” He hasn’t played since Game 2 of this series.
Item Three: Alex Edler Suffers Scary Skate Laceration, But He’s OK
The night might have been far worse for Alex Edler. In one of those freak accidents, Edler suffered a nasty cut to the side of his head during the second period of Game 5 when Blues forward Jordan Kyrou’s skate flew up and clipped him near his right ear. The veteran defenseman left the ice under his own power but he was bleeding. He didn’t return for the third period.
The most important question is about Edler’s health, and thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt. The second question is about his ability to play in tonight’s Game 6, and that also looks like good news. Edler’s a quiet, competent member of the team’s defense who logs tons of minutes without making many mistakes that turn into a scoring chance against.
Rick Dhaliwal tweeted yesterday that “the word” on Edler is that he should be fine. When asked later in the day, head coach Travis Green wouldn’t say if Edler would be in or out for Game 6. However, Green said he hoped Edler would be available, and early reports have been optimistic.
Item Four: J.T. Miller Is All Over the Score Sheet Again
J.T. Miller was one of general manager Jim Benning’s best offseason finds. He led his team in regular-season scoring and has continued his strong play into the playoffs. In their Game 5, 4-3 win, he scored a goal and an assist to continue his six-game scoring streak.
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Miller now has five goals and 10 points in nine playoff games, which puts him into a five-way tie for fifth place in the postseason scoring race. Only Elias Pettersson has more on the Canucks with 11 points.
Item Five: Tyler Motte Shows Up Big in Game 5
One of the biggest surprises of Game 5 was the play of wrecking-ball forward Tyler Motte. I expect Motte to fly around the ice hitting opponents every shift, but I hardly expected the offense he provided his team. He looked like a top-six forward in that game.
Motte scored two goals on Wednesday and opened the game by taking advantage of Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo – one of the NHL’s best defensemen – who had lost his stick. His speed tied Pietrangelo in a knot and Motte skated around him to wrist the puck behind goalie Jake Allen.
After the Canucks fell behind 3-1 and were only treading water because of Jacob Markstrom’s stellar play, Miller and Jake Virtanen scored to tie the game in the second period. Motte scored a game-winning breakaway goal for the victory also in the second. The 25-year-old hadn’t scored in eight games entering this one, but he matched the Blues’ physical play and utilized his speed as well.
Item Six: Jacob Markstrom Has Been Amazing in Goal
Jacob Markstrom stopped all but three of the 37 shots he faced in Game 5. It wasn’t the number of shots that mattered, it was the quality. He was unbelievable. After Motte’s short-handed goal to open the scoring, the Blues overwhelmed the Canucks offensively and jumped to a 3-1 lead early in the second period.
The Blues never quit, but Markstrom kept stopping their quality chances. Finally, after Miller’s “greasy” goal, the Canucks gained some momentum and scored three unanswered goals for the win.
It won’t take long for Benning and the 30-year-old goalie to ink a new contract after the season. Markstrom is too good not to re-sign. Should he and his upstart Canucks knock out the defending Stanley Cup Champions on Friday night, it will be the start of something very good in Vancouver.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
I’m becoming a bigger fan of the two young Canucks stars – Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Although I didn’t mention them specifically in this edition of News & Rumors, it’s tough to leave them out because of the quality of their game.
Both seem to be using this very difficult playoff series as a proving ground. It might be optimistic imagination, but they seem to be growing stronger and smarter with every game. The Blues muscle them constantly, but the youngsters get up and play harder and stronger.
If the Canucks can move past the Blues into the second round, this experience might be the start of something very special in Vancouver.