The Vancouver Canucks are making it very interesting for the final stretch of this season.
After securing the extra point in Tuesday’s thrilling 5-4 OT victory against Vegas, the team found themselves just six points back of the Dallas Stars for the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference, a position that they’ve essentially been chasing since the All-Star break.
Unfortunately, this pursuit has been an uphill battle for Vancouver, particularly over the past few weeks, given Dallas’s remaining games in hand and the strength of the Central Division combatants, as well as the impressive play of Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski that have kept the Stars in their playoff chase.
Dallas also has more regulation and overtime wins than Vancouver, two statistics that could go a long way in a tie-breaker scenario.
But what if there was another way in for the Canucks?
Enter the Pacific Division standings.
As it stands right now, no team will be able to touch the Calgary Flames, who currently sit atop the division with 99 points, including a record of 7-2-1 in their past 10 contests.
The same could be said for the Edmonton Oilers who, despite their goaltending inconsistencies, have been able to secure the second-most regulation wins in the Pacific Division, in large part to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl outscoring their team’s problems.
Like the Flames, the Oilers have also won seven of their past 10 games and, barring a complete meltdown in the final few games of the season, should be able to lock down second place in the division.
Fortunately, the same can’t be said for the Los Angeles Kings.
After a strong (and surprising) first half of the season, Los Angeles has started to show their true colours, going 4-5-1 in their past 10 contests, including a 9-3 beatdown at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
Despite the embarrassing defeat, however, the Kings still find themselves third in the division with 88 points, with more regulation wins than both Vancouver and Dallas. They also have a relatively straightforward schedule in their final six outings, facing off against teams like Columbus, Chicago and Anaheim before closing the year with a pivotal match-up against Vancouver on April 28th.
But, given their current stretch of games, as well as the season-ending injury to star blueliner Drew Doughty, the door is starting to inch more and more open for the Kings to slip out of their current playoff picture.
And, of course, we can’t forget about the Vegas Golden Knights.
After coming back in the third period to force the game into overtime, Vegas was also able to stay very relevant in their playoff chase. As of Thursday morning, Vegas sits just three points back of both Dallas and Los Angeles, with more regulation wins than both clubs.
Similar to Los Angeles, Vegas also has a decent schedule in their remaining eight games, facing off against struggling opponents like Chicago, New Jersey and San Jose.
However, those contests could be rendered futile if this upcoming weekend doesn’t go well for the Golden Knights.
Vegas will be up against Calgary on Thursday night before rounding out their Western Canada road trip with a visit in Edmonton, two match-ups that Vancouver fans will diligently be keeping tabs on.
Of course, all of this won’t matter if the Canucks crumble under the pressure themselves.
As previously mentioned, the team only has eight games remaining on the year, one less than Dallas, which starts with a home contest against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
Vancouver will be off for a few days after, but will need to take that time to make sure that they’re mentally and physically prepared for the crucial final stretch, which has them playing seven games in 12 days, including a massive road outing against Dallas on Monday night.
Vancouver will square off against Ottawa just 24 hours after, followed by games against Minnesota, Calgary, Seattle, Los Angeles and Edmonton to round out the season.
Mathematically speaking, the Canucks still have the worst odds to qualify for the postseason amongst all discussed teams, sitting at just 6% according to Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic.
However, Vancouver has become red-hot at the right time, securing points in eight of their last 10 contests, including their current four-game winning streak dating back to their 5-1 win over Vegas on April 6th, and could very well ride that momentum to a first round playoff appearance.
The Canucks also has a bench boss that has gone through a very similar process.
After taking over the Washington Capitals back in November 2007, head coach Bruce Boudreau was able to carry that team from the bottom of the standings to a last-minute playoff spot. During that stretch, the Capitals won 14 of their last 18 games and, like Vancouver, had absolutely no margin for error.
We’ll see if Boudreau can repeat history here in Vancouver.
What are your thoughts on how Vancouver’s playoff picture could turn out? Let us know in the comments!