Canucks First Round Outlook

One more weekend left before the playoff excitement begins!
Photograph by Jeff Vinnick, NHLI/GETTY

Just like Thursday night’s shrug of a contest at Rogers Arena, Saturday’s Canucks game on the road against the Edmonton Oilers will have no real meaning for either team. The Canucks have locked up the third spot in the West, they can’t move up or down in the standings. As such, avoiding a cheap shot from a frustrated Taylor Hall, testing out Corrado to see whether or not you can count on him in the postseason (so far so good), and getting the special teams units a bit of additional practice is really all the Canucks should be pushing to do on Saturday night.

But there will be four other contests worth paying attention to this weekend, four games which will impact the identity of the Canucks opponent in the first round of the playoffs. So in advance of the final weekend of regular season hockey why don’t we take a look at the lay of the land, which clubs the Canucks could realistically meet in round one, and which teams you should root for this coming weekend.

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The Minnesota Wild

Photograph by: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Percentage chance the Canucks face the Wild in round one: 16%

What has to happen? The Wild need to take two points from Edmonton on Friday night and Colorado on Saturday night (doesn’t matter if it’s regulation or not, they just need to win both games). Also the Los Angeles Kings need to defeat the San Jose Sharks in regulation.

Why should I root for this? Because the Minnesota Wild are easily the worst five-on-five team in the Western Conference who are also currently holding down a playoff spot. Minnesota has, in fact, been outscored this season at five-on-five, and though they have a pretty distinct advantage over the Canucks on special teams, that matters less in the postseason when the referees put their whistles away. 

Why should I root against this? There are three major reasons you should root against a Canucks versus Minnesota first round series: timezones, travel and because it would be more fun to see the Wild miss the playoffs entirely.

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The Los Angeles Kings

Photograph by Jeff Vinnick: NHLI/Getty

Percentage chance the Canucks face the Kings in round one: 34%

What has to happen? If the Kings lose to San Jose on Saturday in regulation, they’ll be the sixth seed in the West. 

Why should I root for this? Because you’re a masochist who enjoys when the Canucks lose in the first round to a dominant possession team. Or perhaps because if the Canucks and Kings meet in a first round series for the third time in four years, such a matchup would make for an interesting grudge-type rubber match between the two most recent Western Conference standard bearers.

Why should I root against this? The Kings are just a completely dominant puck possession club – in fact they’re a better possession team on the road than Vancouver is at home, which would pretty much negate home-ice advantage entirely. The Kings laso employ a first ballot jerkpuck hall of famer in Dustin Brown, and Drew Doughty is probably the second best defenceman on planet Earth. 

The San Jose Sharks

Photograph by: @Buffalo_JBS01, Flickr

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Percentage chance the Canucks face the Sharks in round one: 46%

What has to happen? The Sharks would lock up the sixth seed if they lose in overtime or the shootout against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Alternatively if San Jose loses in anyway to the Kings, and Minnesota drops a point against either Edmonton or Colorado this weekend, then the Sharks would travel up the coast to Vancouver early next week.

Why should I root for this? Because games between the Sharks and the Canucks are always entertaining, and a playoff series would be doubly so. Also, for whatever reason the Canucks have had Antii Niemi’s number in the past, and you enjoy seeing Henrik Sedin pass the puck through an opposition goaltender’s five-hole. Or perhaps you just like it when Stanchions get involved in deciding the outcome of a playoff series.

Why should I root against this? Because the Sharks are a better possession team than the Canucks, would have the edge on special teams, and possess the sort of forward depth that can quite seriously exploit Vancouver’s lack of forward depth.

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The St. Louis Blues

Percentage chance the Canucks face the Blues in round one: 4%

What has to happen? The Blues would have to lose in regulation to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, and the San Jose Sharks would need to defeat the Los Angeles Kings in over-time or a shootout.

Why should I root for this? Beyond the fact that the Blues will be counting on Brian Elliott between the pipes and that watching Backes and Kassian throw down would be great fun, you really shouldn’t.

Why should I root against this? Becasue the Blues are a killer possession club. Though they struggle to manufacture goals, they have no issues when it comes to physically grinding their opposition into dust, which sounds like a description of a team worth avoiding in the first round of the playoffs.

Percentages chances of matching up against the Canucks in round one courtesy

    • Fred-65

      My preference would would be SJ.

      Sure, the Wild might be easier opponent… but from a selfish angle, I don’t want to have to take off work early and fight rush hour with everyone else taking off earlier to watch the away games in Minnesota.

      As Drance mentioned, travel would be a pain for the team as well.

      Of course, the downside of playing SJ, and I’m surprised this wasn’t mentioned, is that there is a roughly 10% chance each game that Torres does something stupid and gets suspended for injuring a key Canuck.

  • Fred-65

    Well you answered my question. Actually didn’t think the Wild were possible, but at 16% a betting man (or woman) would say it is a safeish bet. Surprised the Blues are only 4%. That is good, I think I would rather play LA than them, but call me crazy.

  • Fred-65

    Minny or SJ, please! Plus, if the Canucks win the first round, it would be great for the 2nd round if LA and StL ground out a long, punishing 7 game series in their first round.

  • Fred-65

    Let’s be honest the Canucks are underdogs. They do not match-up well physically or in puck-possession against STL, Chi, SJ, or LA. No team is considered a good match-up for them in the first round except for Minnesota (and travel shouldnt be an issue, its not like they have never had to travel in the playoffs before). That being said to be the best you gotta beat the best and I would like nothing more than to see them roll through LA, STL, and Chi on route to the Stanley Cup final. There are no easy roads to a championship and personally I would love nothing more than to see them roll through all the big tough teams to get it done. What a story book ending that would be. After getting pushed around and out muscled 3 years in a row they finally win a cup by beating all the teams that pushed them around. If they went through STL, LA, Chi, and Boston/Pit they might finally earn just a shred of respect from the MSM and the hockey world.

  • BrudnySeaby

    I’m with Kleptoklown here. Let LA and St. Louis take it out on each other. And assuming the Ducks will win their match-up, we will meet them while the winner of LA/St. Louis will have the pleasure of facing of against Chicago. That would be a sweet scenario to make it to the WCF…

  • Fred-65

    Good luck to the Canucker’s in their quest. However,
    until the Sedins grow a pair of heavy ones, which is probably never…. you can say “never” to the Cup while those two are your best.

    • KleptoKlown

      Good luck to the Oilers in their quest….. to make it out of the NHL basement. Until RNH, Hall, Eberle, Shultz, Gagner, Horcoff, Paajarvi, Yakupov, and Dubnyk grow a pair of heavy ones, which is probably never…you can say “never” to even sniffing the playoffs while those softies are your best.

  • DieHard

    I think Drance may be a little off in his predictions here.

    I watched the Colorado-St. Louis game last week, these guys in blue can’t score. Very advantageous when we’re not exactly lighting up the scoreboard either. But, yes, maybe not an ideal first-found match-up since they would and can grind out wins with their big bodies. 1-0-2 with them on the season though so it’s not like we can’t hang with them.

    We took 7 out of a possible 8 points from LA in the regular season so I’m not really afraid of them. It seems like the Canucks would love to knock them out of the first round and aren’t intimidated by the big boys. Alberts and Pinozotto/Stitiso would have to take the body at every opportunity but it’s very possible. Both Sedins and Kesler are healthy which they were not last year. Could be a different series. 2-0-1 in the regular season.

    San Jose has actually gotten smaller since the last time we met them in the playoffs: no Murray, no Clowe, no McGinn. They are not as physically imposing as they once were so that shouldn’t be a problem. For some reason, they seem to be owning us this year. 0-2-1 in the regular season…don’t underestimate the Sharks. I wouldn’t actually look forward to this match-up.

    Minny would be the easiest team to beat though. I could see a clean sweep or a five-game series. Then our guys can rest up for an entire week while the other teams destroy each other.

  • DieHard

    SJS may be a better puck possession team than Van, but that’s only cause they’ve been one of the healthiest teams this yr. They’ve been incredibly lucky w/ injuries. Van is the exact opposite, they’re top 4 in league with man games lost. So in fairness, we don’t know Van’s real puck possession #’s.

    Due to those injuries, SJS has never seen a full Vancouver team (though no NHL team has cause we haven’t seen it yet). Here’s who’s been missing from all their games vs SJS this yr:

    Jan 27 (4-1 loss): Kesler, Malhotra, Booth (Roy)
    March 5 (3-2 S/O Loss): Kesler, Bieksa, Malhotra (Roy)
    April 1 (3-2 Loss): Kesler, Booth, Raymond, Malhotra (Roy)

    Most notable, SJS has never played against Kesler this yr. That in itself is a huge addition. They’ve also never played against Roy this yr.

    Unfortunately, Schneider doesn’t have great SV% numbers against SJS this yr. Perhaps Luongos should get the start?