Second chances are hard to come by in life. Sometimes, they don’t even come at all. But when they do, don’t squander them. That’s unfortunately what the Vancouver Canucks did in their latest four-game set with the Ottawa Senators. With games in hand and ground to make up on the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens, the Canucks had four games to really make up some ground against the last-place team in the North Division (at the time), but only came out with two of a possible eight points.
While there is still a chance for Vancouver to go on a run and squeak into the postseason, this was the series that would best set Vancouver up to do just that. The Canucks can dwell on it for the remainder of the year, look at how other teams fared against the Sens, or they can look ahead and worry about the games remaining, instead of looking back at what could have been.
What Could Have Been
This doesn’t mean we can’t look back at it. This is the question though that Canucks’ fans will be asking for the remainder of the season. Here was a golden opportunity to catch up to the Flames, but more importantly, the Canadiens, who occupy the fourth and final playoff spot, but, ultimately, they couldn’t produce over a four-game stretch. The Canucks went 1-3-0 in that series while getting outscored 13-8 by the Sens, who are ranked only 19th in scoring in the NHL.
The bittersweet aspect is how the teams they’re chasing have fared lately. First, you’ve got the Flames: They’re coming off a split series with the Canadiens and are just 3-3-0 over their last six games, with one of those losses also coming against Ottawa. Then there’s Montreal, who are coming off a loss to the Flames and have gone 2-6-0 over their last eight games. On one hand, the Canucks are still in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot due to Calgary and Montreal’s recent play. However, Vancouver has to be kicking themselves knowing the opportunity they had in front of them, and wishing they had a better outcome against the Sens.
Other Teams’ Success vs Ottawa
Up until the last few weeks, the Senators were at the bottom of the barrel in the North Division. The Edmonton Oilers swept them, the Winnipeg Jets were quite successful and while they gave the Leafs all they could handle, still lost the season series. Yes, those all happen to be the three best teams in the division, the Sens were supposed to be the team that others capitalized on “taking care of business” against.
Ottawa ranks 30th in the league in goals allowed at 3.46, 27th in the league in SOG (shots on goal) allowed and are in the bottom third of the league in PK% (penalty kill percentage). Vancouver had every opportunity, especially over four consecutive games this late in the season. While the Canucks still hold the season series after winning the first five games against Ottawa, squandering three of these last four games may come back to be the difference-maker between making the playoffs, and missing them.
Where Canucks Stand Now
As of right now, there is still a small possibility Vancouver can go on a run and sneak into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They currently sit 12 points behind the Habs with five games in hand. But as we’ve seen in the past (literally a week ago) games in hand don’t always result in wins or catching other teams in the standings. That is on Vancouver and the players they’ve got moving forward.
They now play eight consecutive tough games against the top three teams in the division, having started already with two against the division-leading and playoff-bound Maple Leafs, dropping the first game 4-1. That’s followed by four straight against the Oilers and a two-game series against Winnipeg. If there was ever a time to kick it into playoff mode to have any hope of playing playoff hockey, that time is now.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.