Canucks: Don’t hang your hat on 2020 postseason results

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

With all of the differences in the 2019-20 NHL postseason, there is no reason to worry about how the Vancouver Canucks perform in the return-to-play.

The Vancouver Canucks are about to begin their first real Stanley Cup chase since 2015, however, it’s not worth evaluating the state of the team based on their playoff run, or lack thereof this season.

As the Canucks face-off against the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the postseason, they are doing so in conditions far different than any other season. With all of these differences, whatever way the Canucks cap-off 2019-20, it won’t show the full picture of the franchise. If the club wins their first Stanley Cup, that’s great, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be a borderline playoff team next season, and the same can be said if the script is reversed.

The leadup:

In a normal year, both Vancouver and Minnesota would have gone through the non-stop grind of a regular season, before launching right into the hard-hitting playoffs. This time around, the teams have had all of two weeks of full-team practice, as well as a single exhibition match to prepare them for the same rigors of the postseason.

Don’t get me wrong, both teams are going to be up for the challenge, but it isn’t going to be pretty. Try to remember what the early games of the 2019-20 regular season looked like. They were sloppy, and save for an 8-2 victory over the LA Kings, uninspiring.

Although the playoff drive will be instilled in each roster, the routines and muscle memory that is often embedded after 82 games won’t be there. We’re going to get some exciting hockey, but it’s going to be sloppy and random, nothing to hang your hat on when contemplating the future.

The format:

While the immediate leadup to the postseason is drastically different than a normal season, the same can be said for the format. The best 3-of-5 series doesn’t exist in a regular playoff system, and each game’s importance is elevated in the tightened series. There is no parallel to past iterations of a  Canucks roster similar to the current one in a five-game series, further amplifying the coin-toss that is the NHL Playoff Qualifying round.

Lineup competition:

In a regular year, by the time a team gets to the playoffs, the coaching staff will have been relying on a small group of players to dress each night. With no extra players outside the bubble, NHL teams have been able to expand their rosters, meaning the roster competition seen through the regular season wiggles it’s way into the playoffs. Although having players competing for their jobs is likely to elevate individual play, it is again, something that differs from any other playoff season.

The Fans and Media:

Unless you’ve been living in an alternate universe where playoff hockey in August is normal, you know that no fan s will be in attendance through the NHL postseason. Despite the hub-cities being in Canada, having fans were too risky a proposition for the league, and although this is the safest route, it makes for a very different experience for the players.

There won’t be any jeering of opposition netminders or cheering to push the home team towards a much-needed goal, rather just the screams of teammates and coaches. The Canucks could have a small advantage in this regard, as the young core is not accustomed to such atmospheres, however, it only exaggerates the reasoning behind not taking the postseason into future considerations.

Players will also not be subject to the prying eyes and long-reaching arms of the accredited media, who have been barred from the proverbial bubbles. Getting used to elevated media coverage is another adjustment teams have to make in a regular year, something that will be absent this time around.

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The Vancouver Canucks are about to take their first legitimate shot at an NHL championship in over half a decade, but with everything being so different from a regular playoff, it means this return-to-play campaign will not accurately gauge the status of the team.