Meaningful hockey. It’s something this market is starved for. Since that 2011 Stanley Cup Finals appearance, there hasn’t been a lot, and the team has stumbled through a rebuild that supposedly wasn’t, and told wasn’t needed only to come out and exceed everyone’s expectations so far. They’ve got themselves in a situation, thanks to a stellar home ice record so far, where they can play .500 hockey the rest of the way and still make the playoffs.
Let’s take a little closer look at what it will take to lock things up, and where things can go horribly wrong with 31 games left to play, shall we?
11-15-2. That is the minimum record, according to Sports Club Stats at the moment, that the Canucks can roll down the stretch and still have over a 50% chance of making the post season. It goes without saying that because of how the Canucks have played at home this season, and the whole “trying to get the most favourable matchup” thing, it’s in their best interest to finish as high in the standings as possible. Here’s what they have to deal with for the rest of February (we’ll explore the remainder of the schedule at the end of the month)
FEB 6 @ Minnesota Wild: And this one has emotional release let down game written all over it. Maybe we see Brock Boeser light it up as he gets another opportunity to play in front of his Dad, and coming off a pretty flat performance in Boston, it feels like the Canucks come out with a dominant one in Minnesota. Prediction: Win
FEB 8 vs Calgary Flames: I wasn’t sure how things were going to go for this one, but the Flames losing Mark Giordano to injury certainly changes a lot of things for the Flames. With Nashville, Winnipeg and Chicago nipping at their heels, the Flames could find themselves falling out of the playoff picture quickly. Time to kick them when they’re down. Prediction: Win
FEB 10 vs Nashville Predators: The Canucks have handled the Preds well in two contests already this season, winning by a combined score of 11-6. While Nashville is playing better, the Canucks really seem to have them figured out, and this one should be another 2 pointer for Vancouver. Prediction: Win
FEB 12 vs Chicago Blackhawks: While they’ve split their meetings with the Hawks so far this year, Chicago’s starting to make a push for the post season. I expect this one to be close. Prediction: OT Loss
FEB 16 vs Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are out of it, and that’s why this game feels like a loss. They’ve been able to deal with the Canucks easily over the last couple years. Add in someone always seems to get hurt on a dirty, uncalled hit against the Cali teams and this one smells like a garbage fire. Prediction: Loss
FEB 19 vs Minnesota Wild: The first of a couple games against recent opponents, the Wild may still be in the mix at this point. The Canucks have been so damn good at home though, and if they have this mini-slump like predicted above, this could be the remedy, BUT... they might be guilty of looking ahead to the next game. I am uneasy about this one. Prediction: SO Win
FEB 22 vs Boston Bruins: Yeah, they’ll be fired up for this one, and not just because of how flat they came out the other night in Beantown. From Brad Marchand’s diving to the ridiculous late hit by Matt Grzelcyk on Elias Pettersson, the Canucks will have an axe to grind and a point to prove. They have wins over the top teams in the NHL this season and it’s time to add the Bruins to that list. Prediction: Win
FEB 25 @ Montreal Canadiens: The Canucks finish the month off with an Eastern road swing starting in La Belle Province. The Habs sit 8 points back of a Wild Card slot as of this writing, and it’s starting to look like another lost season in Montreal. After a frustrating loss to the Canadiens in Vancouver earlier this season, the Canucks will be looking to crush some Habs playoff hopes. Prediction: Win
FEB 27 @ Ottawa Senators: The Canucks beat the Sens 5-2 back in December, and there’s no reason for this one to come out any differently. Don’t feel bad for the Sens, though. I am not sure they can screw up having potentially the first two picks in the draft this year. Prediction: Win
FEB 29 @ Toronto Maple Leafs: With the Leafs trading to try and stop their back end leaks, it will be interesting to see how they respond now that the whole ‘new coach bump’ has worn off. Much like the Montreal game, this is one the Canucks will want to use to show that the first meeting was the Canucks having a bad night. Let’s go with... Prediction: OT Win
I know that’s an optimistic look at a fairly tough schedule, but if they can pull this off, they basically would need 3 or 4 wins the rest of the way to ensure they make the playoffs. They have a pretty brutal schedule in March, with 2 games against Arizona, 2 against Colorado, 2 against Columbus and 3 back to backs in there, as well as divisional games against Anaheim twice, LA, Vegas, Calgary and San Jose. They also play the Jets, Tampa, Dallas and the Islanders before ending the season with a road game in Arizona then at home to Vegas.
We’ll do this again to start March, and see where they’re at, but right now you have to be feeling somewhat optimistic. They’re somewhat healthy (by Canucks standards, at least) and are finding ways to get points in games. They do need to do something about limiting the number of shots and shot attempts they’re giving up, and we could see them try to address that at the trade deadline. Overall though, not a bad place for them to be in the month of February given the expectations for this team at the start of the season.
It’s understandable if you’ve been hesitant to go all in. Lord knows we have struggled with this here. We’ve been hurt before, and thus want to protect ourselves. Maybe it’s time to believe again, though? Have you been to a game this year? Maybe you should. Why not grab some tickets for this Saturday’s game against the Flames from Stub Hub, who have some great deals right now for Nucks Misconduct readers.