Just a few months into the 2021-22 regular season, the Vancouver Canucks certainly weren’t seen as a playoff team. On December 1, the Canucks were just 7-14-2 and well out of postseason contention.
Despite digging themselves into a deep hole early on, Vancouver has done the impossible; keeping its playoff hopes alive as the final days of the regular season approach.
Since winning seven of their first 22 games, the Canucks are 31-14-11. In April, they remain undefeated in regulation (6-0-1) and are primed to finish their remarkable run with a playoff spot.
With six games left, the Canucks remain within striking distance of the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division. Vancouver is also alive in the Wild Card discussion, where the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars currently occupy the Western Conference’s two available spots.
Down the home stretch, the Canucks will take on the Ottawa Senators (4/19), Minnesota Wild (4/21), Calgary Flames (4/23), Seattle Kraken (4/26), Kings (4/28), and Edmonton Oilers (4/29).
While Vancouver’s strength of schedule isn’t the easiest, let’s take a look at where it stands in the playoff race.
First Things First, The Canucks Must Overtake Golden Knights
The Canucks have two avenues they could take to the postseason; either a Wild Card spot or a third-place position in the division. In either scenario, they have to overtake their division rival, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Vancouver is just one point behind the Golden Knights (41-31-5), who currently reside in fourth place in the Pacific. The Canucks have a game in hand over the Golden Knights, which may come into play when deciding who gets into the postseason.
Vegas started April off hot, winning five-straight games before cooling down. The Knights will head into their next game against the Washington Capitals fresh off of consecutive losses, including a shocking 3-2 defeat at the hands of the lowly New Jersey Devils.
The Golden Knights’ remaining strength of schedule lies near the middle of the pack. They’ll finish up their season against the Capitals (4/20), San Jose Sharks (4/24), Stars (4/26), Chicago Blackhawks (4/27), and St. Louis Blues (4/29).
Wildcard Hopes For Canucks Are Alive But Precarious
With only a week-and-a-half remaining in the NHL regular season, both Wild Card spots remain up for grabs in the Western Conference.
Vancouver doesn’t have a game in hand over the Predators or Stars, who each possess 91 points on the year. Nor does it have any remaining matchups against either team. That makes overtaking one of those teams more difficult, but not impossible.
The Stars, who currently own the second Wild Card spot, aren’t playing lights-out hockey recently. They are 5-3-2 over their last ten games, but they’ve lost two of their previous three games. Dallas benefits from the sixth-easiest schedule remaining in the NHL, but it still has two challenging games back-to-back against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
Dallas has the Oilers (4/20), Flames (4/21), Kraken (4/23), Golden Knights (4/26), Arizona Coyotes (4/27), and Anaheim Ducks (4/29) left on its schedule.
Meanwhile, Nashville is 5-4-1 over its last ten games. However, the Preds are coming off a one-sided 8-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues, their fourth loss in their previous six games.
The Predators also have a tough road if they hope to hold onto the top WC spot. With the Flames (4/19), Tampa Bay Lightning (4/23), Wild (4/24), Flames (4/26), Colorado Avalanche (4/28), and Coyotes (4/29) left to play, Nashville has the second-hardest remaining schedule in the NHL.
Thinking of betting the Canucks to win the West? Check out the latest NHL Western Conference champion betting odds.
Canucks Could Dethrone Kings in Pacific
Perhaps the most-likely scenario for the Canucks to clinch a playoff berth lies within the Pacific Division — securing third place in the division, to be exact.
It’s clear thar Vancouver must overtake the Golden Knights in the Pacific, whom it trails by a single point. However, the Canucks are just four points behind the third-place Kings.
LA has won two of its last three games, but those wins came against the Columbus Blue Jackets (35-35-6) and Chicago Blackhawks (25-40-11). Its loss over that three-game stretch came against the Avalanche, the NHL’s point-leader (55-15-6). Over its last ten games, Los Angeles is just 4-5-1.
The Kings have the second-easiest remaining schedule, including games against the Ducks (4/19), Blackhawks (4/21), Ducks again (4/23), and Kraken (4/27). However, their final regular-season game will come at Rogers Arena against the Canucks.
If the Canucks can keep their winning ways going, their April 28 home finale against the Kings could be the biggest game of the year. Vancouver will still have a trip to Edmonton on its schedule, but it might not matter if the rest of the standings shake their way.