Get the latest summer forecast and weather knowledge from Cindy Day
Want to become a member? Check out the benefits here.
Thanking our essential workers
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
SaltWire Selects: Our weekend entertainment picks
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
Good morning St. Louis!
This ain’t the Round Robin, fellas.
The Blues are faster than the Wild, that much is clear. They can create things offensively. That much else is clear.
The Wild could not do that.
But the Canucks played hard in their qualifying series versus Minnesota and got themselves up to speed for these playoffs.
The Blues played in the round robin, didn’t win a game and while they looked quick a lot of the time Wednesday night, they also looked like a team that was still in training camp mode.
Will that change? You’d think so. They saw a lot from the Canucks in game 1, especially on the power play.
That said, it wasn’t a comprehensive win for the Canucks by any stretch of the imagination.
Jordan Binnington gave up a couple goals he’ll like back. And the Blues controlled a lot of the play at even strength.
Still, the Canucks were full-value for their 5-2 win. Their power play hummed. Jacob Markstrom stood tall in net.
And as we know, if those two things are working, the Canucks are a tough team to beat.
That the winning goal was tallied by Troy Stecher was great.
He deserves all the headlines. We know how hard this summer has been for him.
An under card storyline for Stecher in all this was how he and Alex Edler were deployed a lot against the Brayden Schenn line. They dominated in the matchup.
The Blues have two top-end lines. Keeping the likes of Schenn, Vlad Tarasenko and Jayden Schwartz contained is no mean feat. (Schwartz’s goal came against Hughes-Tanev).
“I thought Baumer did a great job getting them out there,” Travis Green noted post-game, pointing out that his team didn’t have last change.
That definitely deserves kudos as well. They were highly effective in shutting down Schenn and company.
Jacob Markstrom is not one who really likes to look backwards, but he did let a small window open into how he felt physically Tuesday night vs. his last appearance, last Friday.
“I could see the puck clearly,” he said.
Some of that was about the defence in front of him, but some of that, surely, in the context of the question — I asked him what the difference was against the Blues in game 1 compared with the Wild in game 4, whether it was about getting some rest after playing four games in six days — and he mostly said the past is the past.
But he did open that window, one which surely has a factor of fatigue in it as well.
He was terrible against the Wild in game 4, as bad as we’ve ever seen him.
He was the complete opposite against the Blues, as good as we’ve ever seen him.
In the series-clincher against the Wild, he was making loads of mistakes, several of which led to goals against. He wasn’t as sealed up as you’d expect him to be. Fatigue was surely a factor.
The first four games of this series has a similar schedule as the Wild series: days off between games 1, 2 and 3, but then game 4 coming a day after game 3. At least against the Wild game 3 was a matinee game, meaning Markstrom could get to bed earlier and maybe make use of an extra six hours or so to recuperate.
The Blues are a team you don’t want to feel tired against.
Blues coach Craig Berube said before the series he’s likely to use both his goalies.
Jordan Binnington wasn’t great against the Canucks. But on the season, he wasn’t as bad as people think, Kevin Woodley told me yesterday.
That said, Jake Allen was outstanding in all aspects this season. Berube wouldn’t go wrong to switch his goalies right away.
What a time Bo Horvat is having.
Vince Dunn is a very good defenceman. The man they call Cap made him look like a minor leaguer.
Hughes is a gem
But you already know that.
The Sportsnet panel compared him with Bobby Orr and Brian Leetch and in normal times we make fun of hall of fame comparisons, but we’ve seen the little magician play hockey for more than a year now and we can agree: he’s amazing.
He’s like no other player we’ve ever seen in Vancouver. He changes the game every time he’s on the ice. He’s Bure-like in his skating, Sedin-like in his processing speed.
He’s going to be a great all-time Canuck.
Let’s remember some guys
That bubble was burst by Bo Horvat, in case you’ve already forgotten.
The lineup thing
Adam Gaudette skated in Mller’s spot during pre-game line rushes. Miller was even listed as a scratch for a handful of minutes pre-game.
That he was at the bottom of a list that was otherwise in numerical order told us this was a game-time decision.
Afterwards, Travis Green said he wouldn’t go into the detail but that Miller couldn’t make it out for warm-up.
That sounds like a player who had bad sushi. Or a bad burger. Or a bad…you get the picture.
The Canucks’ power play hummed and Miller picked up an assist and a goal, but he was not his customary self at even strength. Indeed the whole life was off-kilter and were out-shot by the Ryan O’Reilly line, something we’re not used to seeing and certainly not something that happened in the qualifying round.
O’Reilly and wingers David Perron and Zach Sanfaord are as tough an opponent the Lotto Line can face; there’s good reason O’Reilly is a Selke trophy finalist as one of the league’s best defensive forwards.
Those O’Reilly wheels
if you were wondering if the Blues really are better than the Wild, I direct you to Jayden Schwartz’s breakaway goal or the late-second period effort by Ryan O’Reilly to outskate Quinn Hughes of all people on a what could have been an icing.
The Blues are quick and deadly in all aspects
Let’s be clear: what Kevin Bieksa has already done with the Sportsnet panel is incredible.
The guy has an incredible ability to relay how the game works in the simplest terms. Sportsnet has tried stuff like this before but the former Canucks blueliner makes it sing.
His banter is great, it really lightens the mood and he’s able to teach in a way that we’ve not often seen before.
And the rest of the panel seems to be raising their game along with it.
Bieksa’s a sharp cookie. He has a finance degree from Bowling Green and was a conference all-academic player while playing NCAA hockey there.
His dad is a longtime union organizer. Being able to talk in effective terms is a family trait.
Phillipe Myers, a scouting case
Imagine a hulking defenceman who can move the puck. Every team wants a guy like that.
The Flyers have one in Philippe Myers. He’s 6’5″. He scored 58 points in 109 career AHL games. He’s become a regular player for Alain Vigneault with the Flyers, skating on the second pairing.
And he was undrafted.
The Flyers signed him as an 18-year-old free agent after being impressed by him at their 2015 rookie camp, months after every team had passed on him at the draft. And that came after the Flames had invited him as an undrafted free agent to their summer development camp but didn’t see enough to invite him to their rookie camp.
Big players have been handed contracts on what seems like a whim before. There was nothing in his performance to that point to suggest he would be as intriguing a package as he turned out to be — so this is a case of where the eye test said enough to make a big gamble.
Anthony Mingioni, who covers the Flyers for Center Ice Philly, says Myers was a player one of their scouts had had his eye of for a while.
Todd Hearty, who was splitting a role scouting the Q with the nearing-retirement Simon Nolet, was very high on him. Myers wasn’t playing a lot for Rouyn-Noranda.
“Hearty was really impressed with his raw athleticism for someone his size,” Mingioni told me. “A lot of raw stuff that he saw the physical development, the way he was able to close on forwards with his straight-line speed and an absolute boomer from the point, that they thought might come together. … They still were in process of building a defensive pipeline so that inclined them to take a chance there. I remember when they signed him, a few scouts I know said to me ‘Hextall might have a steal there.'”
The new wave of scouting is very keen on understanding everything about a player. Performance matters a lot more in the past than it does now. The Canucks drafted a hulking defenceman the next year in Mackenze Stewart but he went nowhere.
Myers, plainly, was different. He’d had some Hockey Canada development exposure in the years ahead of his draft year, but nowhere had he shown an offensive touch.
And then after being signed by the Flyers, everything seemed to click.
He put up a big year in the Q for Rouyn-Noranda in 2015-16 and again in 2016-17. He moved to the AHL for 2017-18, immediately impressing and in his second season of pro hockey even suited up 21 times for the Flyers.
He’s the kind of find every team hopes to land. It’s the cheapest way to make your team better.
It’s interesting looking at the tail end of the 2015 draft. The Canucks, of course, had the second-last pick and took Tate Olson, a blueliner for the Prince George Cougars who had a decent frame and put up good numbers.
He had an outstanding 2015-16 season, one that pushed his projection of making the NHL to nearly 1 in 3, according to Canucks Army . Even if his skating seemed a good bet for a seventh rounder.
And then he struggled in 2016-17, went unsigned by the Canucks and wasn’t drafted again.
He got a cup of professional coffee in 2018-19 after aging out of junior hockey, first skating at the Minnesota Wild’s training camp, then playing for three separate teams in the ECHL, including, initially, the Allen Americans, the Wild’s ECHL club. He was released after five games with Allen, landed with the Newfoundland Growlers for five games, played a single game for the Florida Everblades then headed off to the world of U Sports hockey with Acadia University.
Drafted right before Olson was a hulking over-age Russian defenceman named Ziyat Paigin . The Oilers grabbed the 6’5″ monster with a big shot. He’d already played in the KHL. A seventh-round bet made sense.
He was traded by Kazan to Sochi early in the 15-16 season and had a huge year in the resort city, scoring 27 points in 37 games.
He went back to Kazan for 16-17 but barely played. Late in the season he signed with the Oilers and joined their AHL club in Bakersfield for five games. He went to Penticton Young Stars in Sept. 2017, didn’t impress, then went back to Bakersfield for seven more games before asking to go back to Russia.
The NHL draft remains a place with a lot of bad buys of lottery tickets. Five years later, it still seems so wild to me that no one drafted Myers, even in the seventh round, and yet a guy who can’t skate (Olson) and an over-ager who couldn’t defend on big ice (Paigin) did.
Friday | Game 2
Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues
3:30 p.m., Rogers Place (Edmonton) , TV: CBC, Sportsnet, Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020