What a time it is to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks...and it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that.
The Canucks pulled off the biggest upset of Round One when they knocked out the defending champion St. Louis Blues, and a very sad-looking Jordan Binnington, in six games.
After the Blues tied the series at 2-2, the Canucks readjusted and played some of the best hockey we’ve seen them play all year in Games 5 and 6.
It was quite the performance, and here are the seven best storylines following the epic victory.
Elias Pettersson, Boy Wonder
There was little doubt in Canucks nation about the skill set and determination of Elias Pettersson.
Elias Pettersson. Disgusting. pic.twitter.com/Igmj5Uu4Jt— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) August 17, 2020
The Swedish phenom failed to disappoint, with three goals and nine points against the Blues. He was solid in his own end as well with some solid defensive plays, including a big block in Game 6.
It’s almost hard to find new things to say about how dominant Pettersson is. If you feel like the Canucks have an advantage against the Golden Knights, it’s likely because Pettersson has the potential to be the best skater on the ice.
Quinn Hughes, Rookie Wonder
If Pettersson is the best skater on the ice heading into the series against St. Louis, Quinn Hughes is arguably the runner up.
Or, is he the just the best, period?
Hughes had another dazzling performance against the Blues. His amazing stretch pass to Bo Horvat for the Game 2 overtime winner stands out most, but he also quarterbacked a dominant power play that annihilated the Blues penalty kill.
Quinn Hughes (1-9—10 in 10 GP) became the fourth rookie defenseman to reach 10 career postseason points in 10 games or fewer, joining Gary Suter (2-8—10 in 9 GP), Al MacInnis (1-9—10 in 9 GP) and Ray Bourque (2-8—10 in 9 GP). #NHLStats #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/5q1S82u2ia— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) August 22, 2020
In terms of Expected Goals For (xGF), a good gauge of who’s dominating possession and scoring chances at even-strength, Hughes is second in the entire league with an xGF of 7.32 per 60 minutes. Only Shea Theodore from the Golden Knights has a better xGF so far.
The Canucks Powerplay is Unstoppable
The league’s fourth-best power play in the regular season was a deciding factor in the Canucks first playoff series win in nine years.
Against St. Louis, the Canucks scored seven power play goals in six games. They only went one game without a power play goal.
Arguably the greatest strength on this power play (aside from the aforementioned Hughes and Pettersson being incredibly intelligent players) is the fact that they’re versatile.
Kevin Bieksa offered a great analysis of that here.
Ultimate Dad-Strength from Horvat and Miller
Momentum is huge in the playoffs, and the Canucks jumped out to a 2-0 series lead after an absolutely dominant showing from Horvat.
The Canucks captain scored four goals in two games, with three of them being of the highlight-reel variety.
Bo Horvat absolutely shreds the Blues for another incredible goal pic.twitter.com/ROcs28YP0C— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) August 14, 2020
Bo Horvat is short for Boner Horvat— P-Word Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) August 14, 2020
It was an important performance from the captain early in the series, and it alleviated pressure from Hughes and Pettersson to be the best players.
As for Miller, perhaps his daughter cheering him on gave him a little boost, because he proved that his eye-popping regular season performance was no fluke. Miller scored some huge goals in this series, including the Canucks second goal in their Game 5 comeback win. Overall, he scored in four of the six games and had seven points overall against the Blues.
Both of these dads have the maturity needed to lead this NHL club on a playoff run.
Markstrom Excelling After Decade-Long Playoff Wait
The Canucks had a number of standout performances, as mentioned above, but Markstrom was the team’s MVP throughout the series.
Markstrom became the first Canucks goalie since Kirk McLean in 1994 to record more than 30 saves in a series win in five straight games.
This team, which did lose the five-on-five battle during the first four games of the series, needed Markstrom’s heroics.
How big does that miraculous save in Game 5 look now?
Jacob Markstrom, what a save pic.twitter.com/eSvMG3r6vj— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) August 20, 2020
Motte Rediscovers Scoring Touch
On a personal note, thank you Tyler Motte.
I got some negative reactions when I basically said F analytics following a Game 3 loss in which Motte was noticeable, but got shelled at even strength.
In Games 5 and 6 though, Motte was important all over the ice, and he ended up with four goals in the last two games of the series.
Motte was previously a scoring machine during his last season with the University of Michigan. Playing on a line with Kyle Connor and J.T. Compher, he scored 32 goals in 38 games.
It’s nice to see him rediscover that scoring touch, and it was important for the Canucks as they closed out the series.
The WHOLE TEAM is Playing Well
As much as Tater Tot Motte deserves a boatload of credit for his tenacity, penalty killing prowess and goal scoring touch, the Canucks got depth performances from nearly everyone in this series.
Jay Beagle provided some unlikely offence in Game 6, and he continued to lead the first penalty killing unit with Motte.
Brandon Sutter was dominant against Minnesota and even though there was a lull in his game against St. Louis, he added three assists in a Game 6 win.
Jake Virtanen went from invisible to electric in Games 5 and 6. Troy Stecher scored two game-winning goals. Antoine Roussel was banging bodies in limited ice time.
Who is this Jake Virtanen and what has he done with the other imposter who played in the first four games of this series?— Trevor Beggs (@TrevBeggs) August 22, 2020
When you have a team playing this well as a unit, success feel inevitable. It’s a contagious feeling for this team as the prepare to face the Vegas Golden Knights.