Vancouver Canucks: At least they made the playoff race exciting

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 20: Vancouver Canucks Center Elias Pettersson (40) waits for a face-off during their NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena on March 20, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 7-4. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 20: Vancouver Canucks Center Elias Pettersson (40) waits for a face-off during their NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena on March 20, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 7-4. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Saturday’s loss was likely the dagger in the Vancouver Canucks’ playoff hopes, but playing meaningful hockey in March was more than enough.

The Vancouver Canucks fell 3-1 to the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena on Saturday night, which was essentially the final blow in their playoff hopes.

With only seven games to go, the Canucks found themselves five points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver has to leapfrog four other teams before they catch Colorado, so they’re facing nearly impossible odds of making it.

Even if the Canucks were to win their final seven games, they would still need a lot of help to get in. This team is simply playing for pride over the last two weeks of the season. Of course, there are many Canuck fans hoping for more losses so that the team can increase its chances of winning the draft lottery.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that 2018-19 was not about making the playoffs in Vancouver. It was about transitioning towards the rebuild in the post-Sedins era.

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It was time for Bo Horvat to lead by example and for the likes of Troy Stecher and Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson to play bigger and responsible roles on this young team.

The Canucks will obviously be disappointed that they missed out on the postseason after hanging around in the race up until late March.

But there’s nothing for this group to be disappointed about — especially when you consider the Canucks were out of the face by February in the previous three seasons.

Vancouver got hit with the injury bug aplenty throughout the season. If key players like Boeser, Pettersson Alexander Edler, Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen and Ben Hutton didn’t miss ample time, there’s good reason to believe this team would be in the playoffs right now.

Despite low expectations and a rash of injuries throughout the season, Vancouver hung around in the playoff race until the final two weeks. Ultimately, they’re going to fall just short — but they can only keep the heads up.

Fans should be pleased with the fact that we got to see some meaningful games in March. Over the last three years, many were simply cheering for the Canucks to lose in hopes of getting some draft lottery luck.

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Quinn Hughes arrives next season. Boeser, Horvat and Pettersson are only going to get better. And if the Canucks are just a tad bit healthier next season, you have to love their chances of getting back into the playoffs.