If the Vancouver Canucks qualified for the 2020 NHL postseason, they would have been a difficult matchup for anybody.
The Vancouver Canucks hung around in the playoff race for the entirety of the 2019-20 regular season before it was suspended indefinitely last week, and you can’t help but wonder where this team would be in the standings right now.
Prior to the season pause, the Canucks and Nashville Predators were tied for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference (78 points apiece). The Preds hold the tiebreaker because they have one extra regulation win.
But with two games in hand, Vancouver was also just two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card spot, and one point behind the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division. Brock Boeser‘s return to the lineup was about to provide a much-needed boost for an injury-riddled team.
If Vancouver got into the postseason, they would have (likely) played either the Central Division champion (St. Louis Blues or the Colorado Avalanche) the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, the Flames or the Edmonton Oilers.
And the Canucks would have posed some serious problems to all five of those teams.
More from The Canuck Way
- Which team won the Bo Horvat trade?
- What to expect from newcomers Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty
- Back to the future: How the skate uniforms became a regular Canucks’ feature night
- Canucks kick off 2023 with disappointing 6-2 loss to Islanders
- 2nd period penalty trouble sinks Canucks in 4-2 loss against Winnipeg
The Canucks went 2-0-1 against the defending Stanley Cup champions during the regular season. And who knows? Maybe last year’s grueling run to the championship would have worn out the Blues early in round one, allowing Vancouver to take advantage of an exhausted group.
Colorado would have been the most difficult matchup for the Canucks, but the clubs split their first two meetings this season.
Though the Avalanche are undoubtedly the much better team, Vancouver’s stars — Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Boeser and Quinn Hughes — could have matched up nicely with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar.
I’d pick the Avalanche to win that series, but Vancouver’s depth and star power would have at least given them a chance. I’d predict that series to go to at least six games.
As for the Golden Knights, Oilers and Flames? All three were playing much better hockey than the Canucks prior to the season suspension, but divisional matchups tend to be tighter and closer.
Vegas would have been the toughest matchup for Vancouver among those three. But I’d take Jacob Markstom (if healthy) over the Vegas goalies who’ve combined for a .901 save percentage and 2.89 goals against average. And as Dominik Hasek and the 2003 version of J.S. Giguere showed, sometimes a red-hot goalie can completely steal a series for a team that boasts less talent and depth than the opponent.
The Canucks would have had the goaltending advantage over both Calgary and Edmonton, too. And before the season went on pause, Calgary’s top stars — namely Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm — were playing well below expectations. I’d take Vancouver’s top guns over Calgary’s in a best-of-seven.
I’m not here to say that the 2019-20 Canucks were poised to go on a deep playoff run. But they would have stood a decent chance against absolutely anybody in the first round of the playoffs — even if they played the superior Blues, Golden Knights and Avalanche.
Things were starting to click for Vancouver. Everybody in the top-six was producing. Markstrom was playing like a Vezina Trophy candidate before his injury, and the blue line took major leaps under Hughes.
We still don’t know if the NHL will resume in the 2019-20 season, and if the Canucks will get a chance to qualify for the playoffs. But I’m confident that this Vancouver team would have put up quite the fight against any potential first round opponent.