The Vancouver Canucks are somehow clinging to life in the Western Conference right now, tied in points with the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars for one of the two Wild Card slots. They have some pretty significant obstacles in their way if they want to make the dance, and some decisions that need to be made heading into the February 25th trade deadline. Much of how they do handle it will be affected by their performance in the 10 pre-deadline games.
The Canucks should benefit from a fairly favourable schedule down the stretch, in that the number of contending teams they play is balanced against teams at their level or worse. That seems good, but in February it could have any advantage cancelled by 8 of their 13 games being on the road, and 6 of those 8 games being back to back. It’s a fairly vicious schedule, and the Canucks are going to need to pretty much play their best hockey of the season in order to come out of this unscathed.
They do have the unusual situation of being completely healthy heading into the month, which is something they haven’t been able to say much over the last few seasons. All teams suffer injuries, but the consistent amount the Canucks have had to endure is at least partly to blame for their fate. It’s not to suggest that they would have been a playoff team if they were healthy, mind you. It’s just that it compounded the issues the team faced.
Let’s go down the list, and have a look at what awaits them, shall we?
FEB 2- @ COLORADO: A four game swing that starts off with an old Central Division foe. During the 90’s the Avs were a formidable force and it’s good to see them starting to get back to that. They’re struggling of late but with a good push could be back in the post-season again, and it would be great to see what the line of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog could do in the playoffs. The issue with Colorado is they have average at best goaltending, and they’d need Semyon Varlamov to play over his head to get them on a deep run. They’ve lost 7 of their last 10 games, and with MacKinnon out with an injured foot, that problem could get worse. The Canucks and Avs had a pretty memorable game the last time these two teams met, which featured a 5 point night from Elias Pettersson and this goal that you might have seen.
It’s a winnable game for the Canucks, but they’re going to have to provide a better effort than we’ve seen of late.
FEB 4- @ PHILADELPHIA: The next game takes them to the City Of Brotherly Love and the Flyers, who seem to be getting things together after making the coaching change following a loss to the Canucks in Vancouver back in December. They’ve won 4 straight, including last night’s 3-1 win over a very good Winnipeg Jets team. Part of the reason has been the emergence of Carter Hart. He’s 7-5-1 in his first 13 NHL games, with a 2.53 GAA and .922 Sv%. This win streak has seen them also beat Montreal, Boston and Minnesota, and while they’re 12 points back from a wild card spot, the way they’re playing right now who knows what could happen. They’ve got 3 games on their schedule before this one: tonight against the Rangers, Thursday against the Bruins and Saturday they host the Edmonton Oilers. This win streak may still be intact when the Canucks visit next Tuesday.
FEB 5- @ WASHINGTON: Back to back #1 will have the Canucks heading to DC for a match against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. The Caps are having a tough go right now, winners of just 3 of their last 10 and they have the Pittsburgh Penguins nipping at their heels. A prolonged losing streak could see them shockingly drop out of the playoff picture. Will that happen? Probably not. Every team goes through hiccups, and for the Caps it’s probably better for them to get this out of the way now than in April. They’re healthy at the moment with just one body on the IR, and have 2 games heading into the game against Vancouver, but they’re facing a couple tough teams in those. First up is Calgary on Friday, then a Sunday afternoon tilt against Boston, another team struggling to keep it’s head above water right now. The Caps were in Vancouver back in October and a 2g 2a night from Ovi helped them cruise to a 5-2 victory. With the Canucks on the back to back, and the Caps just being too damn good to stay down for long, count this one in the L column.
FEB 7- @ CHICAGO: Hopefully it’s warmed up by then, because holy crap it’s cold in Chicago right now.
A massive snowstorm has struck the Midwest, and major cities including Chicago and Minneapolis may come to a standstill amid brutally cold temperatures. https://t.co/VyDm2ITLvv pic.twitter.com/RJXyf1p2KD— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2019
The last time these teams met was Halloween night, and the Canucks came out with a 4-2 win thanks to 2 goals from Shotgun Jake Virtanen and a 2 point night from Brendan Gaunce. The Hawks are in full on tank mode it would seem, and despite winning two in a row, are unlikely to move out of the NHL’s basement this season. So a team that has won 3 Stanley Cups in the last decade is in line to get Jack Hughes. It’s pretty gross when you think about it, so much so it prevents any possible schadenfreude seeing them lose so much. Part of the problem with the Hawks is the loss of Corey Crawford to another concussion. He may not have made them into contenders if he’d stayed healthy, but they’d probably be where the Canucks are right now if he had, he’s that much of a difference maker. The Hawks have a back to back against Buffalo and Minnesota before a Tuesday match against the Oilers. Should be a win here for the Canucks.
FEB 9- VS CALGARY: Heading home, the Canucks get a day off before having to deal with the Calgary Flames. The Flames are looking pretty darn good right now, and just have lingering goaltending issues (can they rely on Mike Smith not to fall apart should anything happen to David Rittich?) that seem to be a concern. They’re healthy and seem to have all the tools to take them on a run this spring. The Canucks have beaten the Flames twice this season, once on opening night, and the most recent one in late December as Alex Edler got the OT winner.
On paper, the Canucks shouldn’t have a sniff at this one. But this season, the Canucks seem to really get up against Calgary, as this slowly starts to get back to the rather underrated rivalry that it used to be, Whether it’s elevating their game against one of the NHL’s best, or just the never ending righteous anger because Otto kicked it in, the Canucks coming out of this one with two points shouldn’t be shocking. I don’t think they will, but won’t be surprised if they win the season series against the Flames (yay for moral victories!).
FEB 11- VS SAN JOSE: This week will literally make or break their playoff chances. 4 divisional games, with two of them against the Sharks. And let’s be honest, there isn’t a team in the NHL that has owned the Canucks more over the last few years than San Jose. It doesn’t matter what the Canucks do, San Jose exposes every single weakness this team has. If the Canucks want to make the playoffs, they need to win at least one of these two games against the Sharks, and since it’s even less likely they’ll do it in the Shark Tank Saturday, best to get it done at home. The Canucks have only faced the Sharks once this season, and it was one to forget: a 4-0 Sharks win at the SAP Center in November. I’m not expecting any different outcome against a team that has the Canucks down cold.
FEB 13- @ ANAHEIM: It’s the first game against Michael Del Zotto! Okay, maybe that statement isn’t worthy of an explanation point, let alone even a mention, but this is one of the games against a team in a similar situation that the Canucks need to make hay on. The Ducks have been tumbling this season, partly because they’ve had some significant injuries, partly because Randy Carlyle is a terrible coach, and partly because their window has closed. They’ve had no Corey Perry all season, and are now without Ryan Kesler (again), and Ondrej Kase as well as Ryan Miller. If not for John Gibson this would be the last place team in the NHL and it’s not even close. The GWG in the 4-3 Anaheim win in October was the only goal this season from a guy who is currently in the AHL. I like the Canucks in this one, and you should, too. And here’s a prediction: the Ducks fire Carlyle if they lose this one.
FEB 14- @ LOS ANGELES: There was a time when few games were as anticipated on the schedule as ones against the Kings. Now, it’s a combination of feeling sorry for them mixed with a sense of kinship as they suffer the pain that we know all too well when one’s team is coached by Willie Desjardins. The Kings have pretty much wrote this season off, as they indicated by sending Jake Muzzin to the Leafs for a 1st round pick. It’s a great deal for both teams, and with the Kings one of the front runners to win the Jack Hughes sweepstakes (which much like the aforementioned Chicago Blackhawks is an extremely gross development) and have another Round 1 pick to boot. This game should be a win for the Canucks unless Drew Doughty manages to convince his teammates this is their Stanley Cup moment for the season, because Doughty’s a dick like that.
FEB 16- @ SAN JOSE: It’s the 2nd meeting in 6 days between these teams. The Canucks are going to lose this one.
FEB 21- VS ARIZONA: After what will be a much needed 4 day rest the Canucks return for two games at home. First up is the Arizona Coyotes, another team the Canucks are trying to fend off for one of those Wild Card spots. It wasn’t that long ago that the Coyotes looked like they were out of it again, but they’ve managed to go 6-2-2 in their last 10 and get themselves back into this. They made the most of the games in hand they had on the Canucks and now sit just 2 points back of the Canucks. Will they still be there 3 weeks into February? Time will tell, and they have a pretty tough schedule leading up to this game, with contests against Columbus, Vegas, Toronto, San Jose, Nashville and Calgary as well as the Oilers, Dallas, Edmonton and St Louis. The 2 games against the Stars will loom large for sure, but if they can keep rolling, they’ll be in this thing at the deadline, and that presents some interesting challenges for GM John Chayka, on whether to actually go for it or shut things down and continue rebuilding. The Canucks have just one point to show for two meetings with the Coyotes so far this season, something that needs to change if they want to move forward. They’ve been hit hard by injuries, so it’s a testament to that team they have a sniff at this at all. If they get healthy? Maybe, just maybe a Cinderella capable of a first round upset? A lot would have to happen for that to come about, but they’ve got the beginnings of a team that could finally do something. Whether or not they can get past the foundations is another story. I smell a Canucks loss here. They just can’t seem to figure out the ‘Yotes.
FEB 23- VS NEW YORK ISLANDERS: The return of the Islanders has been one of the biggest stories this season. Written off by everyone after John Tavares left for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Isles have stormed to the top of their division led by new coach Barry Trotz and some outstanding goaltending from Robin Lehner along the way. Mat Barzal continues to be a threat (and we’re looking forward to the Boeser/Barzal matchup again) in his sophomore season. This could be the last game in a Canucks uniform for some guys, as it’s the last one before the trade deadline. How the Canucks do down this stretch will help them decide if they continue to lean in the direction of re-signing Alex Edler or ask him to waive his NTC. Christopher Tanev, Brandon Sutter, Nikolay Goldobin and Erik Gudbranson also could be on their way out the door as we head towards a trade deadline as filled with intrigue for the Canucks as we’ve seen in years. These teams met back in November, part of that horrific losing skid the Canucks went on, and I imagine that the Canucks would like another shot at the Isles after a pretty poor performance. I don’t see this one as a win, either.
FEB 25- VS ANAHEIM: Deadline day, and it’s going to be interesting to see what the roster looks like when the smoke clears. We should know whether to abandon all hope by this time, but if they’re still close, a game against the Ducks could be another chance to pick up a much needed two points against a divisional rival.
FEB 27- @ COLORADO: The 3rd and final back to back of the month, and if there’s a silver lining, it’s that it’s the first game of the back to back and not the last. They’ll be tired as it is, but hopefully have enough left to overcome the altitude issues that can plague visiting teams in the Mile High City. I am gonna call a win here.
FEB 28- @ ARIZONA: Back to the desert to wrap up the month. This could end up being one of the biggest games of the season for both of these teams which looks funny when you write it out. The Canucks have shown up against some of the better teams in the NHL season, but they’re not going anywhere if they can’t do the same against the Arizonas of the league. Not entirely confident of a win but they’re due for one against the Coyotes...
The Canucks could win nine of these thirteen games. They should win at least half of them, but if they want to make the playoffs, nine is probably the minimum of the thirteen they’ll need to win. That’s a pretty tall task for any team, especially one as defensively challenged as the Canucks.
How many games will the Canucks win in February?
This poll is closed
More than 9
Zero to 3