Blues Gameday Preview: Vancouver Canucks – 1/23/22

J.T. Miller, Jordan Binnington, Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas, St Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks

The St. Louis Blues have crossed the border and gone fishing – for Canucks that is. This is the first of three games between the two franchises this season. Should mistakes be made tonight, the teams will need to wait until March 28 and 30 to settle any scores. This season, the Blues are 8-7-3 on the road while the Canucks are 8-7-2 at home. 

The Blues are averaging 3.53 goals per game this season, have a 29.3 power-play percentage, and an 84.8 penalty kill percentage. Vancouver is averaging 2.48 goals per game, a 19.7 power-play percentage, and a 67% penalty kill.

Here’s a look at the storylines and projections ahead of Sunday’s matchup:

Two Storylines: Blues (24-11-5)

Blues Are Healthy Again

The team got one of the best forwards back in the lineup for their game against the Seattle Kraken, only to list him as inactive for tonight’s game against the Canucks. Though it will only be for one game, the Blues must adhere to the Canadian COVID protocol of 10 days rather than the five days the United States is currently operating under. The Russian scored one goal in his return to the lineup on Friday against Seattle. 

Berube on Buchnevich now having to sit out Sunday: “Yeah, it’s a different situation, but Buchy will get a practice in here on his own, skate, be ready to go for the Calgary game. It is what it is. It’s unfortunate that he can’t come with us, but that’s the rules.” #stlblues

Buchnevich was acquired in an offseason trade that sent Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick to the New York Rangers this summer. He signed a four-year contract worth $23.2 million only days later, and in his first season with the organization, he is tied for the team lead in goals (15) and second in points (36).

Goalie Controversy Brewing for Bluees

Backup goaltender Ville Husso slayed the Kraken on Friday night by stopping all 27 shots against them in a 5-0 victory. His win brought his season record to 7-2-1 with a .938 save percentage and 2.02 goals-against average. The game was not only another notch in the team’s win column but additional ammunition toward the team’s goalie controversy currently hanging over the team. While Husso has played half as many games as his goalie counterpart, Jordan Binnington, he continues to make his case to earn a heavier workload. 

RELATED: Blues’ Ville Husso Making Case to Be Starting Netminder

Binnington, the lone Stanley Cup-winning goaltender in franchise history is currently being statistically outplayed and forced to see more time on the bench. Among goaltenders with at least 10 games started, his .906 save percentage ranks 32nd, his 3.05 goals-against average at 37th, and Ville Husso sits atop the NHL in both categories. While the teams’ ultimate goal is to secure wins and hopefully another Stanley Cup, it is not a good look when the team’s starting goaltender in the first of six years, $36 million contract is being outplayed and underperforming. The question becomes if the playoffs started tomorrow, who would the team turn to start in net and lead their team on to the ice? 

Two Storylines: Canucks (18-18-4)

Canucks Cleaned House

Vancouver has made significant changes to their organization this season: Jim Benning is out as GM, as is John Weisbrod as assistant GM, and Bruce Boudreau replaced Travis Green as head coach. In addition to that, Nolan Baumgartner was fired, with Scott Walker taking on an assistant coaching job. The Canucks’ regime changes come shortly after Vancouver fell to a record of 8-15-2. After the coaching change, the Canucks went on a seven-game winning streak before losing 2-1 in a shootout against the LA Kings. The team is 10-3-2 since their change and looking to continue their winning ways under Boudreau.

Overall, the Canucks went 133-147-34 (.478 points percentage) under Travis Green. The Canucks currently sit 10 points behind the Vegas Golden Knights who sit atop the Pacific Division lead with plenty of runway to fight for the playoffs this season.

Canucks Without Leading Scorer

JT Miller will be out of the lineup against the Blues after being placed in the COVID protocol as of Thursday. The 28-year-old has been on an offensive tear this season, scoring 12 goals and a total of 39 points through 39 games. 

JT Miller Vancouver Canucks-Blues Gameday Preview: Vancouver Canucks - 1/23/22
JT Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Miller is currently in the fourth year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract. Miller has been nothing short of spectacular for the Canucks during his two and a half years with the franchise. In 161 games, the forward has scored 54 goals and 157 points. 

Players to Watch

St. Louis: Robert Thomas – Four points in last four games

Canucks: Quinn Hughes – Defenseman is on three-game point streak scoring four points in that timespan

Projected Line Combinations

St. Louis Blues

Left Wing Center Right Wing

Brayden Schenn Ryan O’Reilly David Perron

Pavel Buchnevich Ivan Barbashev Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad Robert Thomas Jordan Kyrou

Klim Kostin Tyler Bozak Oskar Sundqvist
Left Defense Right Defense

Niko Mikkola Colton Parayko

Torey Krug Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella Robert Bortuzzo
Starting Goalie

Jordan Binnington

Vancouver Canucks

Left Wing Center Right Wing

Nils Hoglander Elias Pettersson Brock Boeser

Matthew Highmore Juho Lammikko Tyler Motte

Tanner Pearson Jason Dickinson Alex Chiasson

Justin Bailey Sheldon Dries Vasily Podkolzin
Left Defense Right Defense

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Tyler Myers

Quinn Hughes Tucker Poolman

Kyle Burroughs Luke Schenn
Starting Goalie

Michael DiPietro

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