Let’s take a look at the Canucks’ current playoff chances

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks are currently clinging to the second wild card spot in the West. But how likely is it that they’ll make it to the postseason?

After Tuesday’s win at home against the New York Islanders, the Vancouver Canucks currently have 78 points and are clinging on to the second wild card spot in a crowded Western Conference playoff race.

It seemed like yesterday when the team was first in the Pacific and almost guaranteed to make it to the postseason, but a recent 6-9-2 stretch has caused a free fall in the standings. With 13 games remaining in the season, it seems like the right time to gauge the playoff odds for the Canucks.

Over the past three seasons, the team that occupied the second wild card spot in the Western Conference has finished with point totals of 94, 95 and 90, respectively. This year is no different; if every team maintains their current pace, the postseason cutoff line will be 93, which is the exact number of points the Canucks are projected to finish with.

In order to determine Vancouver’s likelihood of making it to game 83, we need to first look at the recent play and strength of schedule for Vancouver and the five other teams currently battling to make the playoffs: the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild.

The remaining schedules of the teams have been organized into a table and ranked based on my personal opinion with the Flames having the most favourable:

Both Calgary and Arizona have relatively easy schedules, while the Canucks have a mediocre one. Meanwhile, the three remaining squads are facing an uphill battle over the next month.

Now it’s time to look at the recent play of these teams. Instead of choosing an arbitrary date, it seems more reasonable to compare their performances since the All-Star break since a lot of people consider that to be the unofficial halfway mark of each season:

Looking at the two tables, it seems likely that the Flames make it while Arizona misses. Calgary currently has the most points out of these teams, and they have one of the easiest remaining schedules. Barring any major injuries or drop in play, it seems like they’re heading back to the postseason.

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On the other hand, even though the Coyotes also have a relatively easy schedule, they’ve been one of the worst teams over the past two months. Taylor Hall and company are now four points out of the last wild card spot, having already played 70 games.

This leaves the Canucks, Predators, Jets and Wild to battle over the two wild card spots. All four of these teams are on pace to finish within two points of one another, which means that the deciding factor could come down to a tiebreaker scenario.

Currently, Minnesota has 30 regulation wins, and Winnipeg 29. Meanwhile, Vancouver and Nashville have 27 and 28, respectively.

Although the two former teams have played more games, the percentage of games that they’ve won in regulation are also slightly higher than either the Canucks or Predators, and that could prove to be the difference in this tight race.

Out of these four teams, Minnesota seems to have the best chance of making it due to the fact that they’ve been one of the best teams since the all-star break and Alex Stalock seems to have solidified their goaltending, which has been the most concerning aspect of their team this season. Even though the Canucks have an easier schedule, the difference in recent play between these teams is too large to make up for any slight advantage that Vancouver might have in this regard.

So who’s going to take the final wild card spot? At this point, the Predators seem the likeliest team to do it. They’ve played better than Vancouver, and Nashville has an easier schedule than the Jets. Again, much like the Wild, the difference between strength in schedule isn’t large enough for the Canucks to sneak past Nashville, given how the two teams are trending in opposite directions.

Getting Brock Boeser and Jacob Markstrom back will definitely help Vancouver, but it might be too little too late. Markstrom might be rusty when he returns. Moreover, it’s not like the Predators have been fully healthy either; they recently just got back Ryan Ellis, who will no doubt help stabilize a surprisingly shaky Nashville defence this year.

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Alas, it doesn’t seem like this is the year Vancouver snaps its playoff drought. On the bright side, however, the Canucks will get to keep their first-round pick in a very deep draft. Perhaps that player could help push the team over the hump in the near future.