After a rough start to the season and a full turnaround in December, the Vancouver Canucks and NHL have entered the final stretch of the season. The trade deadline has passed seeing the Canucks move Tyler Motte and Travis Hamonic, while they added Travis Dermott and Brad Richardson to the mix. Now they face an uphill battle in their quest for the playoffs, it will be a tough road but not necessarily an impossible one.
The Canucks have 16 games remaining this season and are currently sitting four points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Of their next 16 games, eight of their opponents are higher than them in the standings, The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars who they play twice, the Vegas Golden Knights who they play three times, the Minnesota Wild who they play one more time, as well as division rivals Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, and Edmonton Oilers. Although they have a few tough matchups lined up they also have meetings with the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Seattle Kraken, and Ottawa Senators who are well below Vancouver in terms of standing.
The Canucks toughest challenge will come at the hands of the Oilers to close out the season. The Oilers have gotten the better of Vancouver three times this season including two overtime wins while outscoring the Canucks eight goals to five. Vancouver’s toughest stretch will be from April 3rd to April 12th where they match up with the Golden Knights three times including back-to-back in Vegas and Arizona. Vegas may be struggling at this point but they bested the Canucks back in November seven to four in Vegas. Fortunately for the Canucks and their fans that lone loss to the Golden Knights was pre-Bruce Boudreau.
Players That Will Need To Play Big
In order for the Canucks to qualify for the playoffs, let alone compete everyone will need to step up. Guys like J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko have all hand great seasons thus far but it simply will not be enough down the stretch, more players will need to step up. Players such as.
Elias Pettersson: After signing a three-year contract extension this off-season worth roughly $7.35 million per season, Pettersson has not fully lived up to his contract in the first season. Playing 64 games thus far and totaling just 45 points. Although on the bright side Pettersson has picked it up as of late totaling seven points in the Canucks last 10 games. If Pettersson’s game heats up down the stretch the Canucks chances of playing meaningful hockey through April drastically increase.
Tanner Pearson: One of three Canucks who have had the honor of hoisting the Stanley Cup, Tanner Pearson as well as Brad Richardson were both a part of the Kings who stormed through the playoffs as an eighth seed to win the Stanley Cup in 2011-12, the team that knocked off the first-place Canucks in the first round. Down the stretch, Pearson could play an important leadership as well as scoring role alongside captain Bo Horvat.
Jaroslav Halak: Then comes Halak. Yes, Demko says he can play out the season and fans want him to, but if the Canucks want to make the playoffs let alone make a run Demko needs to be healthy. Starting just 11 games this season and appearing in 14 Halak has had somewhat of a rough go, posting a .894 save percentage and a 3.19 goals-against average fans always seem to worry when he takes the crease. Although with the trade deadline past and Halak’s reared away from if he will be dealt he seems less shakey, see his last start where he stopped 32 of 33 shots well helping the Canucks beat the Colorado Avalanche in regulation.
So, You’re Saying Theres A Chance?
Until the Canucks mathematically get eliminated there is a chance. Most of the Canucks chances do sit in the hands of other teams but there is no need to focus on what is not in their control. As long as they play hard and prove they can win it will be a major building block. Since the addition of Boudreau, the Canucks have shown they are a good team, who can in fact compete. Unfortunately due to a slow start and an even slower change from the top things are tough and bound to be frustrating down the stretch.
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