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The Canucks’ Roadmap to the Playoffs

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The Vancouver Canucks are refusing to let their playoff hopes dwindle. Here’s what they will have to do to break into the postseason:

The sentiment throughout the Canucks fanbase feels very foreign when compared to prior seasons. With Bruce Boudreau leading the bench, the team has looked much more complete with an impressive record of 8-0-1 since his arrival. Canucks fans are thrilled and things are looking up.

I’m going to be looking at patterns from past seasons and I will then determine what the Canucks need to do in order to be in a playoff position this spring.

Pacific Division playoff teams through the years:

Year:2013-142014-152015-162016-172017-182018-19Average
Team:LA (100 points)CGY (97 points)SJS (98 points)CGY (94 points)LA (98 points)VGK (93 points)96.6 points
The lowest amount of points required to make the playoffs in the Pacific Divison.

Excluding the 2019-20 season due to the play-in format and the 2020-21 season due to the shift in the divisions, the final playoff team will need 97 points to squeak in.

The Canucks are currently sitting at 35 points in 34 games played and are ranked seventh out of the eight Pacific Division teams. However, fans are optimistic that the club may still be able to compete in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Although this is certainly a tall task, if the team continues to thrive under their new leadership, it could be attainable.

I will be taking a look at the remainder of the Canucks schedule to determine which games they will need to win in order to hit the 97 point mark.

How many games will they need to win?

If you remove overtime losses, the Canucks will need to win 31 of their remaining 46 games. However, based on their current 16-15-3 record, they are on pace for approximately four more overtime losses. This means that the team will need to finish the year with a record of 29-13-4. Thus, placing them in the final playoff spot with a total of 45-28-7.

I’ve broken the remainder of the schedule up into three tiers based on the strength of the team, the location, and where it falls within the schedule. In addition, I also projected what the results of those games will need to be in order to assure playoff placement.

Tier 1 – Must-Win Games (17-0-2):

Date:TBDTBDJan 25Jan 27Jan 31Feb 24Feb 28Mar 3Mar 9Mar 15Mar 17Mar 20Mar 26Apr 7Apr 9Apr 14Apr 18Apr 26Apr 28
Team:(H) NYI(H) OTT(H) EDM(A) WPG(A) CHI(H) CGY(A) NJD(A) NYI(H) MTL(H) NJD(H) DET(H) BUF (A) DAL(A) ARI(H) SJS(H) ARI(H) DAL(H) SEA(H) LAK
(H) = Home Game, (A) = Away Game, Bolded = 2nd night of back-to-back games.

Due to the skill level of these teams, coupled with the position of the games on the schedule, these games will be essential wins for a Vancouver group aiming to finish strong. The difficulty of these games could increase if more home games are being postponed.

Two back-to-back games were placed on this list (New Jersey & Buffalo) but based on the skill level of those teams, a playoff-level team shouldn’t have any issue handling them. The February 24 game against Calgary takes place after the break and will be a perfect opportunity for a rested Canucks team to show what they have.

Tier 2 – 50/50 Games (5-5-2) :

Date:Jan 21Jan 23Jan 29Feb 27Mar 11Mar 19Mar 23Mar 28Mar 30Apr 21Apr 23Apr 29
Team:(H) FLA(H) STL(A) CGY(A) NYR(H) WSH(H) CGY(A) COL(A) STL(H) STL(A) MIN(A) CGY(A) EDM
(H) = Home Game, (A) = Away Game, Bolded = 2nd night of back-to-back games.

If the Canucks want to contend for the playoffs they will need to be on par with and sometimes better than some good teams. The games against St. Louis, Calgary, Minnesota, and Colorado are all going to be crucial with these teams fighting over the wild card spot.

If fans are allowed in the building, the home-ice advantage will likely play a part against Washington and Florida.

Tier 3 – Elite Competion (4-8-0) :

Date:Jan 11Jan 13Jan 15Jan 16Jan 18Feb 1Mar 5Mar 13Mar 24Apr 3Apr 6Apr 12
Team:(A) FLA(A) TBL(A) CAR(A) WSH(A) NSH(A) NSH(A) TOR(H) TBL(A) MIN(H) VGK(A) VGK(H) VGK
(H) = Home Game, (A) = Away Game, Bolded = 2nd night of back-to-back games.

The Canucks have an elite slate of teams up against them in their next road trip. They’ll be hoping to keep riding their current momentum as they take on some of the most ferocious teams in the NHL. If Thatcher Demko can continue to be a brick wall in the net, the Canucks may be able to sneak away from this road trip with a few points.

These games will certainly be challenging, but a few wins will be necessary if they want to keep their playoff fire burning.

Is this realistic?

It’s hard to determine if these projections are realistic because it’s still hard to determine if we’ve seen the ‘real’ Canucks this year. If the group continues to perform as it has under Boudreau, these results will certainly be attainable. However, if the version of the team that was getting blasted by the Penguins and shut out by the Blackhawks returns fans will be keeping an eye on the Shane Wright-sweepstakes instead of the playoff race in the coming months.

It’s said that the truth is usually found somewhere in the middle, I believe that is also true when it comes to the Canucks’ outcomes this year. If they can stay hot, they could definitely make a run at the playoffs. In the midst of a pandemic, times are uncertain and anything is possible. With that being said, the most likely option is for the Canucks to finish the season out fairly strong but still fall short of the playoffs, as they cement themselves as a fringe playoff squad.

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Hockey Writer from Northern British Columbia.