April 14, 2009
Time to play some Blues
By BOB MACKIN, SUN MEDIA
The third-place Vancouver Canucks host the number six St. Louis Blues tomorrow to open the teams' best-of-seven, Western conference quarterfinal. The Canucks were 45-37, including 8 overtime losses and 10 shootout losses in the regular season. The Blues were 41-41-10-10.
The Canucks are meeting St. Louis for the third time in playoffs after scoring 4-3 wins in 1995 and 2003. The Blues led 3-1 in 2003, but were felled by the infamous "St. Louis Flu."
The teams split four regular season games, each winning on home ice. The Canucks were 6-4 losers on Jan. 9, but 6-4 winners on Feb. 10 and 3-0 winners on March 19. The Blues won 4-2 on March 26. The Blues are red hot with 25 wins since the all-star break and nine in their last 11. The Canucks were sharp in February and March, but a dull 3-3 in April, including a shootout loss.
Canuck Pavol Demitra is fifth on the Blues' all-time scoring list. He had 18 goals and 25 assists in 66 playoff games between 1997 and 2004.
Roberto Luongo and Chris Mason are first and second stars of the final regular season week. Both went 3-0.
Vancouver-born Paul Kariya (hips) could make his St. Louis comeback as early as Wednesday after missing play since November. Vernon's Eric Brewer (back) remains out. St. Louis' roster also includes Trail blueliner Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie, who hails from Mt. Vernon, Wash. The Canucks' only locals are Port McNeill's Willie Mitchell and Jason "LaBurnaby" LaBarbera.
The Canucks were just 1-6 when they wore blue, green and white in the playoffs during the first go-round. That was their April 15, 1975 playoff debut in the Montreal Forum against the Habs. The only other stick-in-rink win was the 2007 first-round, game-seven knockoff of the Dallas Stars.
The Canucks are notorious for playoff failure, but the St. Louis Blues are the NHL's undisputed champs of futility. The Blues have a 137-161 record in 34 years of playoff entries. They played three consecutive times for the Stanley Cup and failed to win a game against the Montreal Canadiens (1968 and 1969) and Boston Bruins (1970). The Blues are the oldest NHL franchise without a Cup win. The Canucks are fourth-oldest.
The Canucks have already beaten the Blues in one category: exorbitant ticket prices. Canucks' first round tickets are listed on Ticketmaster.ca at $102.50 to $401.50 per seat, per game. At Scottrade Center in St. Louis, it's US$20 to US$237. The top upper bowl price is US$55. For those who noticed the recession, games are free to watch in high definition on CBC, RDS and Versus.