As the Vancouver Canucks get ready to face down the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues starting Wednesday night, the team is collecting itself from a solid 3-1 series victory over the Minnesota Wild. Sadly for the Canucks, a number of potentially key players were injured during the series. However, on the plus side, the team advanced and seems to have developed some strong team chemistry. Could this team be a team of destiny?
In this edition of Canucks News & Rumors, I’ll try to help fans stay more up-to-date about the news and rumors emerging from the team before Game 1 begins.
Item One: Tyler Toffoli’s Boot Is Made for Walking, But Not Yet Skating
It seems as if Tyler Toffoli is still hobbled with an injury and isn’t quite ready to return to action. He was seen late last week limping around in a walking boot after being injured during Game 1 against the Wild. Canucks fans have to hope he might return some time during Round 1.
Toffoli made quite an impact during his brief time with the team after coming over from the Los Angeles Kings just before the trade deadline. However, his “lower-body” injury didn’t allow him to practice or play after Game 1 of the best-of-five play-in series, and news about an imminent return isn’t good. That means that Loui Eriksson (who I think has played well by the way) will likely remain skating with the team’s top-six until Toffoli returns. (from The Skate: It’s the playoffs! The playoffs!, Patrick Johnston, The Province, 08/08/20)
Item Two: Jordie Benn Might Be Making His Return Soon
First, congratulations are in order for Jordie Benn and his fiancée on the birth of a daughter. She was born a week ago and Benn had been in Dallas with his family until a few days ago. He arrived in Edmonton last Tuesday and he’s had to quarantine. The last word is that he’s tested negative for COVID-19, but has to have four negative tests in total before he can join his teammates for practice.
He was able to skate alone yesterday, but probably can’t join his team or take a place in the lineup until Game 2 or Game 3.
Item Three: Congratulations to Defenseman Olli Juolevi on His NHL Debut Friday
Friday’s 5-4 overtime victory had to be especially sweet for young defenseman Olli Juolevi, who made his NHL debut in the game. If all games are like this one, playing in the NHL would be joyously stressful. It was a huge game for a debut, and Juolevi skated for 6:16 time on ice in Oscar Fantenberg’s place in the lineup.
Juolevi was the fifth-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and, during the 2019-20 season with the AHL’s Utica Comets, he scored 2 goals and 25 points in 45 games. However, during January he had 12 points in 11 games, which suggests that he could one day provide offense. He’s likely a future fixture with the team, but that might not be for a while yet. In fact, he might not play much more during these playoffs now that Benn is probably available for the lineup. (from Canucks 5, Wild 4 (OT), Ed Willes, The Province, 08/08/20)
Item Four: Bo Horvat Has a Monster Game 4
Bo Horvat had a great Game 4 from start to finish. He scored a goal and assisted on goals by Tanner Pearson and Brandon Sutter. But when he scored the Canucks’ fourth goal at 14:14 of the third period, he was able to extend the game to overtime and set the stage for Chris Tanev’s point shot that found the twine 11 seconds into the extra period to secure the comeback victory.
Horvat has been a leader throughout these Stanley Cup qualifying games. The 25-year-old captain finished the play-in series with two goals and five points in the four games. He was all over the ice and showed why the organization was wise to name him the team’s captain.
Item Five: Jacob Markstrom Thanks Teammates for Scoring More than He Let in
So often when I hear Jacob Markstrom speak to the media, I get the sense that he’s liked and respected by his teammates. During Game 3, he had a 27-save shutout against the Wild, and he was effusive in thanking his teammates for playing well in front of him.
During Game 2, his finish was shaky and, although he played well, he let the Wild close within a goal. He seemed especially shaky during Game 4, allowing 4 goals on 28 shots in the 5-4 overtime win. When asked after the game about his performance, Markstrom deadpanned: “I think our team played a great game and I’m so happy we won. I’d like to thank all the players for scoring one more goal than I let in.”
Related: Vancouver Canucks All-Time Team
In response, captain Horvat was quick to suggest, “Marky doesn’t give himself enough credit. He’s been a brick wall for us all year. We wouldn’t be in this position without him.”
What’s Next for the Canucks?
St. Louis is a strong team, as one would expect from any reigning Stanley Cup championship team. However, the Canucks have actually played quite well against the Blues during the 2019-20 season, taking points in every meeting. They won on Jan. 27 in Vancouver 3-1, they lost on Nov. 5 in Vancouver 2-1 in overtime, and they won in a shootout in St. Louis on Oct. 17 by a score of 4-3.
Perhaps last season’s Calder Trophy controversy where Blues’ goalie Jordan Binnington spoke out that he should have won it is past; however, it’s also likely it will become a featured theme during the series. Canucks fans should hope 2019 Calder winner Elias Pettersson settles any remaining controversy by scoring at least one goal in each game against Binnington.
Wouldn’t that be rich?