Canucks Have a Window of Opportunity for Postseason Berth

The Vancouver Canucks have had a rollercoaster of a regular season. It started back in the offseason with a blockbuster trade with the Arizona Coyotes, sending Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle and Loui Eriksson along with the ninth overall selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft (Dylan Guenther), in exchange for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland. After an 8-15-2 start, the Canucks cleared house, relieving former head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning of their duties, and brought in Bruce Boudreau, along with Jim Rutherford, Patrick Allvin, Cammi Granato and Emilie Castonguay. Throw in a trade deadline with rumours swirling about moving the likes of J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and Garland, and with just eight games to go, Vancouver has a window of opportunity for a postseason berth.

The Canucks have won four straight games, and have picked up points in nine of their last 11 games, including five of six points against the Vegas Golden Knights over their last three meetings, capped off by a 5-4 overtime victory Tuesday. But while they’ve been taking care of business on their end of things, other factors from around the league have given Vancouver some hope heading into the final stretch. With big injury news to the Los Angeles Kings and the logjam of teams vying for a wildcard position, there’s not only a chance to sneak into said wildcard spot but potentially third in the Pacific Division.

Drew Doughty Out for the Remainder of the Season

Injuries can be a cruel reality, especially as teams make late pushes for a playoff spot. The Canucks have had to face this reality already, with Boeser out indefinitely after suffering an injury back on April 3rd. The Kings were also dealt a major blow earlier in the week, with defensemen Drew Doughty ruled out for the remainder of the season after undergoing wrist surgery. He’s been out since March 7th and was having a very solid season, piling up 31 points in 39 games.

Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Los Angeles has struggled over the last few weeks. While they were victorious against the Chicago Blackhawks, they’ve dropped three of their last four contests and won just five games over their last 12. They’ve gone from comfortably second in the Pacific Division to third, and just three points up on the Golden Knights and six on Vancouver. If the Kings continue to slide in the standings, vying for third in the Pacific division may be more attainable than the final wild card position.

Vegas Still Dealing With Injuries of Their Own

Outside of the three losses to Vancouver, the Golden Knights have also made a late postseason push, similarly to the Kings. They’re 6-3-1 over their last 10 contests with victories over the Kings, Nashville Predators, and Florida Panthers. While goaltender Robin Lehner returned from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for a couple of weeks, Vegas is still dealing with some injuries of their own.

They currently have seven players on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR), with some of those players including Brett Howden, Reilly Smith and Nicolas Hague. They have been able to start getting healthy though, with captain Mark Stone returning Tuesday from a 26-game absence after dealing with a back injury and being on LTIR himself, and Alec Martinez returned at the end of March after being out since November 11th.

Even with Vegas’ core pieces back for this last stretch of regular season play, having the number of roster players sidelined might be too much to overcome.

Related: 3 Canucks Who Need to Step up to Have a Shot at the Playoffs

Vegas also has a tough remaining schedule, with games against the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues all remaining. If Vegas doesn’t take care of business, they could be on the outside of the playoff picture for the first time in the franchise’s existence.

Canucks Play Pivotal Games Against Playoff Opponents

There’s a saying out there, “kill two birds with one stone”, and that’s the idea for Vancouver’s final stretch of games. Tuesday’s contest against the Golden Knights kicked off a stretch of pivotal games against playoff opponents over Vancouver’s final nine games, with other games coming up including matchups against the Calgary Flames, Stars, Wild, Oilers and the Kings.

Their other matchups include the Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators and Seattle Kraken, all should be winnable games for the Canucks. Even if they drop contests to the Flames and Wild, if they can find a way to beat the Stars and Kings (preferably in regulation), and even the Oilers, those matchups directly affect the division and the wild card spot that is still very much in play. Now, it’s unlikely Vancouver sweeps the rest of the season and goes 8-0, but going 6-2 puts them at 94 points. It’s not easy, but it’s likely what it’ll take to have a chance.

Vancouver Canucks forwards Vasily Podkolzin, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat
Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat celebrate a goal (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With both the Kings and Stars winning Tuesday as well, the Canucks at least kept pace with the crowd, but if injuries get the best of a couple of teams and Vancouver can capitalize and get hot here at the right time, they could very well be playing playoff hockey in three weeks.

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