The Pacific Division is very tight. Just four points separating first and fifth means special teams, goaltending and injuries will determine 2020 postseason picture.
The Vancouver Canucks simply couldn’t match the sheer drive and will power of the Calgary Flames, leading Van-city to forfeit two points in a 6-2 collapse on Saturday night. The Canucks kicked off a six-game homestand losing their fourth consecutive game, snapping a nine-game home win streak in the process, yet Vancouver still has a single point lead in the very competitive Pacific Division.
With last night’s battle picking up some serious tempo, it appears playoff hockey is coming early this year. Not literally, but with the Pacific Division being as close as it is, Saturday night’s game had the passion and excitement of postseason puck. And it’s just the beginning, from top to bottom, teams will be fighting tooth and nail from here until the end of the regular season. As of Sunday morning, Vancouver remains perched on top, but there are four other teams nipping at their heels, hungry for extra hockey in April.
With each win becoming more important than the last, you gotta ask yourself, “What’s going to be the difference-maker? What’s going to separate the men from the boys? What does Vancouver need to do to remain in the playoff picture?” The answer: Strong special teams, goaltending and injuries. Those three things will be the deciding factor on if the Canucks are making it into the dance for the first time in five seasons. The division is as equal as it’s ever been, meaning these things are vital down the stretch.
Looking at the Canucks, their goaltending tandem has stood out as their best asset. It’s been incredible all season long and shouldn’t waiver as the team marches into spring. Special teams have slipped over the last month or so, remains a top ten threat, but Vancouver has the pieces to turn the power play around and get back into the top five. According to the league’s website, the Canucks have the eighth-best power play sitting at 22.9 percent.
For the most part, Vancouver has escaped without any serious injuries thus far (knock on wood). Vancouver felt the loss of Elias Pettersson when he was scratched in Minnesota due to a lower-body bruise. He returned the next game versus Calgary but was not his regular self, not appearing to be 100 percent. On the other hand, Brock Boeser left the game with an injury and did not return. It was later revealed by coach, Travis Green on Sportsnet that Boeser will miss at least two games before re-evaluation.
Vancouver has the special teams to come out on top, they wouldn’t be here without their stellar one-two goalie punch, but if star players like Pettersson and Boeser can’t be healthy down the stretch, the Canucks are in serious danger of sliding out of favour in the Pacific. The west is wide open and Vancouver has what it takes to make the postseason. Will they?