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5 Canucks Thoughts: Jake’s Awake and Da Real MVP

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The Canucks stepped up big in Game 5. Can they actually pull off this upset against the defending champs?

Vancouver Canucks v St Louis Blues - Game Five
Brandon Sutter #20 and Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate their win over the St. Louis Blues in Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 19, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Blues 4-3.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Can your Vancouver Canucks actually pull off this upset?

Although a wise man told me never to start an article with a lede (thankfully, I’m not a wise man), I think this is the biggest question heading into the biggest Canucks contest since 2011.

A win on Friday night will be one step towards diminishing the 2011 references. Before that, here are my thoughts on the game tonight.

The Rise of Tater Tot Motte

I love the mixed reactions, and I got it after hyping up Tyler Motte in a Game 3 loss.

There was zero argument about Motte’s impact on the game tonight. He scored a beauty shorthanded goal after making a sweet move on a stickless Alex Pietrangelo. Then, he followed that up with another beautiful goal off the rush late in the second period.

Motte has been playing with heart, hustle, speed and determination all playoffs long. If there was a depth guy that was going to step up, your best bet was Motte, and he proved that tonight.

Jake’s Awake!

Welcome to the playoffs, Jake Virtanen.

One of the most overly-discussed players in Canucks history showed up tonight in a big way. After getting a promotion to a line with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller, Virtanen made an impact with a goal and an assist at evens in the second period.

The Canucks have been starved for five-on-five contributions, and they finally got that tonight in the second period. After four games where they were outplayed at five-on-five, they finally controlled play tonight with a 58% share of the scoring chances.

Jake was a big part of that with his smart, tenacious puck-hounding in the offensive zone. Even late in the game, Green trusted him with a couple of shifts with less than three minutes left in the third.

If Jake can keep this up, he will truly be the X-factor for this team.

Da Real MVP

For all the love Motte and Virtanen will get after this performance, there’s no chance that the Canucks win this game without the heroics from Jacob Markstrom.

The Canucks are lucky to be in this series and quite frankly, they wouldn’t be in this series without Markstrom. Tonight was a perfect example of that, with Markstrom making a number of miraculous saves, particularly during the latter half of the first period and the beginning of the second when the Blues absolutely peppered the Canucks goaltender.

If you were worried about the Canucks defence being this team’s kryptonite, you were right. However, goaltending IS the difference in this series right now.

Markstrom has been the difference maker for this team all season, and tonight was no different.

The Best Series of Round One

Coming into the playoffs, I believed that the Canucks and Blues were one of the top-three series to watch in Round One.

After one week of real playoff hockey, I don’t think there’s much doubt that this has been the best series of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay vs. Columbus was a dud. Ditto for Boston vs. Carolina.

The only series that has come close to being as entertaining has been Philadelphia and Montreal but despite the physicality and unpredictability, a series with three straight shutouts just doesn’t take the cake.

Let’s hope that relevance of this series shines a brighter light on players like Markstrom, Miller (and Motte, of course). They all deserve more of a spotlight after what they’ve done in these playoffs.

Can they actually do this?

Like I mentioned off the top, Game 6 is arguably the biggest Canucks game in nine years.

They’re also facing a Blues team that is used to being in these types of games. This is a team that went into Boston’s TD Garden in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and won the whole fucking thing.

I wouldn’t put it past Blues coach Craig Berube to shake things up in Game 6. Does he bring Jordan Binnington back in? Does he split up the Blues two best players, Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron?

Whatever he does, you know the Blues are going to come out firing in Game 6. The Canucks have to be prepared to weather a storm, and they need to be prepared to keep countering with chances at even-strength.

If that happens, they certainly can pull this off unlikely upset.