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.
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.
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
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.
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 sportsclubstats.com