This is a somewhat frequent column that’ll attempt to handicap the Pacific Division and the Vancouver Canucks’ playoff picture at large.
These days it really does feel like it’s one step forward and two steps back for the Vancouver Canucks and the Pacific Division.
Thursday night was a prime example. The Canucks themselves weren’t busy—they were preparing to take on the Colorado Avalanche in tonight’s affair at Rogers Arena. But there were three games on the night that directly affected them.
Here’s how the night began for the teams battling for points in the Pacific Division.
How did it unfold on Thursday? Let’s start with the good news first.
Vancouver’s old friends the Chicago Blackhawks did the Canucks a big favour by beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-3.
The Blackhawks held a 4-1 lead going into the third period but it wasn’t all smooth sailing as the Oilers scored two goals less than a minute apart around the eight-minute mark.
It was the Oilers’ third game in four nights (they go again tomorrow) and, maybe somewhat predictably the Blackhawks held most of the play until the third (when Edmonton turned it on and dominated).
But for now, the Oilers remain stationary with 80 points in 68 games played.
We also might have to start adding in the Chicago Blackhawks in our assessment of the race… the club now has 70 points in 67 games after rattling off four wins a row.
After three losses in a row, the Predators played, well, Predators hockey in shutting out the Dallas Stars en route to a 2-0 victory.
That’s at least on the scoreboard. A deeper dive finds that the Stars outchanced the Predators by a fairly big margin. But Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros seems to be rounding into form of late, and that could be a problem for other playoff hopefuls in the West.
With the win, the Predators moved into a tie with the Canucks at 74 points (though Nashville has played one more game).
Even as the Canucks dropped out of the division lead, there was still solace to be found in that the team was clinging onto the first wildcard spot. And it held on to that for some time.
That stretch has finally come to an unceremonious end.
With a (pretty lucky and somewhat dependent on goaltending) 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, the Minnesota Wild are up to 75 points in 67 games and have claimed the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
And Minnesota gets to play Los Angeles and Anaheim now—not bad.
How does it look now?
If you were wondering when the time would be to panic, we’re definitely getting there. The phrase “must win” gets tossed around a lot, and often when the games aren't, in fact, must win. But one gets the sense that the Canucks need to take some points off their opponents in the next few games.
And it won’t be easy. After the Avalanche tonight the Canucks face John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets (at least partly responsible for the current spiral Vancouver is on) and the hard-working New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes before facing the Avs again.
Life moves fast.
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