By the time you read this, Game 1 between the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues will be in the books. The Western Conference rivals played the opening game of their first round series Wednesday night, and we’re going to assume you’ve heard the result, 2-1 Canucks, oh, approximately 1,748 times by now.
But here are a few things about the Canucks and Blues of which you might not be aware:
• This is the third time Vancouver and St. Louis have met in the playoffs, with the Canucks emerging victorious – barely – on the previous two occasions. Both previous meetings, in 1995 and 2003, were also first-round matchups – and both went to a deciding Game 7. In 2003, the Canucks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit, scoring 13 goals in the final three games after scoring just four times in the first four games.
• Nobody was hotter than Vancouver or St. Louis in the second half of the regular season. The Canucks went 23-7-2 (.750) in their final 32 games while the Blues went 24-8-7 (.705) in their final 39 contests.
• A big part of the big finish for both teams was the fact that their respective goaltending situations were stabilized. For Vancouver, Roberto Luongo came back after a two-month injury layoff and returned to his rightful place – and righteous play – in net. For St. Louis, Chris Mason played the final 38 games – yeah, that’s right, 38 frickin’ games in a row – and was perhaps the best goalie in the West in the second half.
• All-time, the Blues hold a decided edge with an 82-59-18 head-to-head record against the Canucks. This season, the teams split four games, winning two apiece, including a 6-4 victory by each side; who knows, maybe there’ll be a few more goals than the rosters suggest.
• Things got a little prickly last summer when new Canucks GM Mike Gillis tendered an offer sheet to Blues winger David Backes, who was a restricted free agent. (Remember how blustery then-Anaheim GM Brian Burke became when then-Oilers GM Kevin Lowe signed away RFA Dustin Penner from the Ducks a couple years ago? It might be legal, but it’s also a good way to make enemies.) St. Louis, with its hand forced, matched the offer and retained Backes – and then, a week later, tendered an offer to Canucks winger Steve Bernier, forcing Vancouver to likewise pay more than the team expected. In the end, maybe Gillis did the Blues a favor – Backes scored a surprising 31 goals in his third season and he’s locked up for two more years.
• Both the Canucks and the Blues concluded the regular season with 1-0 shutout wins over Colorado. Coincidence? Of course. But you can bet there’s at least one more 1-0 game in the immediate future for these two teams.
This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
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