The St. Louis Blues defied low expectations and devastating injuries to not just make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but climb all the way up to the #6 seed and a date with the Northwest champion Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver is loaded with expectations, the front office for having acquired Mats Sundin, and the Sedin twins for playing out their contract, with the specter of previous disappointing playoff performances hanging over their impending free agency. St. Louis has boldly gone where nobody thought they could go, so might they play "fast and loose", and get the jump on the Canucks?
That gap in 5-on-5 GF/GA is the largest among the Western Conference matchups, and is probably the single most significant stat in this table (since the bulk of any game is played 5-on-5).
|2008 - Chris Mason||57||3215||27||21||7||7||129||2.41||1544||1415||.916||6|
|2008 - Roberto Luongo||54||3181||33||13||7||5||124||2.34||1542||1418||.920||9|
No OtF preview would be complete without a look at Penalty Plus/Minus, to see which players will head to, or send other players to, the box:
|St. Louis||Penalties Drawn||Vancouver||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|David Perron||46||24||+22||Alex Burrows||58||48||+10|
|David Backes||41||54||-13||Ryan Kesler||37||23||+14|
|B.J. Crombeen||32||38||-6||Kevin Bieksa||34||35||-1|
|Cam Janssen||31||32||-1||Daniel Sedin||32||18||+14|
|Keith Tkachuk||27||29||-2||Henrik Sedin||31||23||+8|
|Dan Hinote||25||19||+6||Darcy Hordichuk||28||30||-2|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|David Backes||41||54||-13||Shane O'Brien||27||57||-30|
|B.J. Crombeen||32||38||-6||Alex Burrows||58||48||+10|
|Barret Jackman||23||35||-12||Mattias Ohlund||13||46||-33|
|Brad Winchester||25||34||-9||Kevin Bieksa||34||35||-1|
|Cam Janssen||31||32||-1||Darcy Hordichuk||28||30||-2|
|Keith Tkachuk||27||29||-2||Willie Mitchell||22||27||-5|
For Vancouver, the Dastardly Duo of Ohlund and O'Brien ranked among the very worst in Penalty Plus/Minus, and a critical factor for the Canucks will be how referees call the game during the playoffs. If the zebras opt to "let the players decide the game", they might get away with fewer penalties than would otherwise be the case.
There are a couple tempting notions that could lead one to call for an upset here, but nothing strong enough to make the difference. I'll take the Vancouver Canucks.