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Vancouver Canucks take the ice in Stanley Cup opener against St. Louis Blues tonight


The Vancouver Canucks take on the St. Louis Blues in Game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs today

The Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round

EDMONTON (NEWS 1130) – The time has almost arrived: The Vancouver Canucks open their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

The teams will play out of Edmonton, the hub city they are based in amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for this best-of-seven series.

James Cybulski with Sportsnet 650 says a lot of the Canucks’ success will depend on the performance of players like Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes.

“But, I think the real key to this series is going to be Jacob Markstrom. I don’t think it was Jacob Markstrom’s best series, by any stretch, against Minnesota. But, they still got by, in spite of their franchise goaltender not playing up to snuff,” he tells NEWS 1130. “Let’s see, if he can play the way he can play as an All-Star goaltender, I think the Canucks totally have a shot. If not, it could be over early.”

The Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild three games to one in the qualifying round, advancing to the playoffs on Friday.

“I think the reality is for a lot of people, people want to see progress, and the Canucks have taken that next step officially getting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year,” Cybulski says, adding there will always be people who believe the team should have been focused on chasing the first-overall pick.

Had the Canucks lost to the Wild, they would have had a 12.5 per cent chance at winning the lottery.

“Whereas other parts of the fan base would say, ‘Just win.’ And that’s where the Canucks are right now, in a position to legitimately take a shot for the Stanley Cup because they are one of 16 teams right now still standing.”

The St. Louis Blues are the reigning Stanley Cup champions after dispatching the Boston Bruins in the Final last year.

Cybulski says the matchup will put the Canucks to the test.

He notes there isn’t much predictability at play this year, after a months-long hiatus to the NHL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he says the one advantage Vancouver has is they were “playing desperation hockey” all week.

“Knowing that their season was on the line against the Minnesota Wild if they failed. The Blues were playing in a round robin, there wasn’t that sense of urgency. Can chance flip the switch? That’s the one question a lot of people are wondering, whether or not St. Louis can do just that.”

Despite the uncertainty, Cybulski says there is room for some optimism.

“You’re in the playoffs and you have a chance, and that’s all that everybody wants. And I think that, for the first time in more than a half a decade, the Canucks have given something back to this market and this region that we have all craved as sports fans, and that is hope.”

You can watch the game on Sportsnet or listen live on Sportsnet 650.

The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. PT.