We can now all breathe a collective sigh of relief. With a 2-1 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks officially clinched a spot in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Canucks opened the scoring at 12:15 on the power play. It all started with a face-off win by Derek Roy back to Dan Hamhuis, who found Alex Edler across the ice. Edler delivered a powerful one-timer goal to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. The Canucks are ranked near the bottom of the league on power plays and face-offs, so it was nice to see them kill two birds with one stone so to speak on the scoring play. It appeared that the Canucks would hold a 1-0 edge going into the second period, but with 21 seconds left on the clock, the Canucks turned the puck over along the boards. Cory Emmerton tipped the puck past Cory Schneider to up the game at one goal each.
The Canucks managed to get only four shots on goal in the opening period, but it was the Red Wings who struggled in the shots department during the second with just one scoring chance on four shots. It had looked like Schneider would have a busy night in net before things slowed down during the second period.
Alex Burrows nearly gave the Canucks the lead while shorthanded, but couldn’t convert on a deke move while trying to beat Jimmy Howard.
With the Red Wings fighting for their playoff hopes and the Canucks trying to clinch their own spot, the pace really picked up as the third period went on. The Red Wings had several good chances on net, forcing Schneider to come up with some athletic saves. Schneider continued to be tested as the Red Wings went on the power play in the third after a Jason Garrison slashing call. Schneider made a couple important saves keeping the game tied. Schneider was able to hold off two more opportunities as the Red Wings amped up the pressure.
The third period told the story of the position these two teams are in. The Red Wings treated the third period like a playoff game, keeping the pressure up, getting 17 shots on net. Meanwhile, the Canucks played a much more conservative period knowing they only needed one point to clinch a playoff spot. While Detroit had 17 shots on net, the Canucks had only two.
In overtime, the Canucks got one good scoring chance as Alex Burrows had an open shooting lane, but couldn’t convert, and the game went to a shootout.
In the shootout, Max Lapierre chose to take things down a notch after Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy came in on Howard with some speed. It seemed as if Lapierre was coming in on Howard in slow motion, beating him with quick hands for Vancouver’s lone goal in the shootout. Schneider made one final stop to clinch the win.
Schneider's performance was impressive on Saturday night. He was able to fight off a playoff-hungry Red Wings team that is looking to keep its 21-year playoff streak alive. He'll face this kind of pressure in the playoffs, so it was promising to see him show up to play against a team who clearly needed the win more than the Canucks did.The Canucks will have a playoff dress rehearsal in a sense next week as they take on the Blackhawks and Ducks at home. Chicago and Anaheim sit in first and second place respectively in the Western Conference.