Vancouver has won both previous playoff meetings with St. Louis, winning each series in seven games. The most recent victory came in the spring of 2003 when the Canucks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to upend a flu-ridden Blues club.

Between the Pipes
Though Chris Mason posted a stellar record of 20-7-4 after taking over the Blues’ No. 1 netminding duties on Feb. 7, he’s not Roberto Luongo. Luongo not only had better numbers during the season, but his playoff resumé is outstanding (1.77 GAA, .941 save percentage), whereas Mason’s is average at best.

Rear Guards
Every member of the Canucks’ defensive corps boasts playoff experience, while only two of the Blues’ blue-liners can make the same claim. Vancouver’s contingent also allowed fewer goals during the regular season and contributed more offensively than St. Louis’ “no-name” defence.

Up Front
The Canucks’ top six forwards put up better statistics than their Blues counterparts during the season, but Vancouver’s scorers have plenty to prove. The Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are virtually void of playoff production at this point, while Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra must live up to their productive reputations from playoffs past. St. Louis counters with snipers Brad Boyes and David Backes, veteran forward Keith Tkachuk, and underrated playmaker Andy Macdonald. The Blues have also been bolstered by the kid line of T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund and David Perron, which was very strong down the stretch.

Special Teams
The Blues hold a distinct edge in this department. Their power play ranked eighth in the NHL during the regular season and their penalty kill was third best in the entire league. By contrast, the Canucks finished in the middle of the pack in both categories.

Fitting that these clubs should meet as the Blues and Canucks were the hottest teams in the Western Conference during the second half of the season.

Defence not only wins championships, it wins playoff series. The Blues are no pushovers, but Vancouver’s back end and goaltending will prove to be the difference.