The big question for the Vancouver Canucks has always been a matter of depth.
They have stars (and potential superstars) at the top of their lineup and a young core that has the potential to be one of the best in the league if they continue on their current development paths.
So far this postseason that young core of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, and J.T. Miller has excelled and helped put them in a position where they have now pushed the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to the brink of elimination.
The Canucks’ 4-3 win on Wednesday night in Game 5 of their First Round series gives them a 3-2 series lead and puts them in a position where they can advance to the Second Round on Friday night, something they have not done since the 2010-11 season.
But it takes more than a couple of superstars to win, go on a deep in the playoffs, and compete for a championship.
Depth matters a ton this time of year. Sometimes you need to win a game where an unlikely hero steps forward and delivers an unexpectedly great performance to steal a game.
That is exactly what happened on Wednesday night when Tyler Motte scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner. Entering play on Wednesday Motte had scored zero goals in his first eight playoff games this season, and had managed just four in 34 regular season games.
He opened the scoring midway through the first period with a stunning shorthanded goal, and then completed a two-goal comeback late in the second period.
That second goal capped off a furious eight-minute rally from the Canucks where they scored three goals to regain their lead (after falling behind 3-1). It was during that stretch where Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom also made a sprawling desperation save to take away what looked to be a sure goal for the Blues, keeping it a two-goal game. That save proved to be one of the big turning points because if St. Louis scores there this game could have easily gotten away from the Canucks.
Instead, their starting goalie made the big save he needed to make and kept his team in it.
This was an impressive win for the Canucks if for no other reason than the overall context of it all.
Here is a young team whose current group has had zero postseason success, in a pivotal Game 5 against the defending Stanley Cup champions after losing two games in a row, and facing a 3-1 deficit on the scoreboard midway through the second period. That is a tough spot to be in, and it was going to take a heck of an effort to bounce back from that.
They got that effort from everybody involved and regained control of the series.
It is not a perfect team by any stretch, but it is definitely an exciting one, and one that is showing it belongs on this stage and is not going to back down in the face of adversity.
Now they have a chance to knock off the champs on Friday night.
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canucks 5, Blues 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Canucks 4, Blues 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 16: Blues 3, Canucks 2 (OT) (recap)
Monday, Aug. 17: Blues 3, Canucks 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canucks 4, Blues 3
Friday, Aug. 21: St. Louis at Vancouver – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD