St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks: The Battle Begins

Michael WagenknechtContributor IApril 14, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 07:  The St. Louis Blues stand attended during the National Anthem before the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on April 7, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Blues defeated the Coyotes 5-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues enter the playoffs on a remarkable run. The Blues wrapped up the second half with a 9-1-1 record to secure the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

This also sets up a date with the equally streaking Vancouver Canucks.

The Blues' record from Janurary 3 to April 12 was a stunning 27-10-7, vaulting them from fifteenth in the conference to the sixth seed they now occupy. The outstanding play of goaltender Chris Mason and the return from injury of Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie were catalysts for this amazing run.

Vancouver, though, has been on a similar run and this matchup pits two of the hottest goalies in the second half against each other. The Canucks' record of 24-12-7 since Janurary 3 is the second best in the league, behind the Blues.

As great as Mason has been in the net for St. Louis, Roberto Luongo has been that and more for Vancouver. Luongo posted a 22-8-5 record with four shutouts since returning from injury in January.

Another key to this series lies in the special teams play of both teams.

With superstars like the Sedin twins and Mats Sundin, you would figure the power play would click on a fairly regular basis, but Vancouver is 11th out of the 16 teams in the playoffs in power play efficiency.

Couple this with the second ranked penalty kill of the Blues and this matchup alone could prove to be the difference in the series.

On the flip side, the Blues' power play is ranked seventh among playoff teams and will be going against the 10th ranked penalty kill of Vancouver. This should give players like Keith Tkachuk and Andy McDonald the freedom to make plays and score some much-needed goals.

Players on both teams have very few playoff experiences, but I don't believe this will have as much as an impact as one might think.

Both of these teams have the skill, grit, and determination to win this series, and no lack of experience will make it any less spectacular.

Being a Blues fan, I do have a bit of a bias as to who I want to win. But as a solid hockey observer, I see this series going seven games, with the home team winning all the games.

Therefore, I see Vancouver moving on, but I will be rooting for a four-game St. Louis sweep.