Is Game 2 Really a “Must-Win” For the Canucks?

For me personally, the best part of a 7-game playoff series is the game of chess that takes place between games. The playoffs are all about adjustments; the ability to make the correct ones and push the right buttons often goes a long way in determining who comes out on top. This is especially true for the team coming off of a loss, as they have to go back to the drawing board in an attempt to figure out ways to avoid tasting defeat again.

That’s where the Vancouver Canucks find themselves, after they relinquished home-ice advantage with their Game 1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night. I’d say that the biggest adjustment the Canucks can make heading into Game 2 is the way in which they utilize the Sedins. As Cam Charron astutely pointed out, Alain Vigneault has to find a way to get them out on the ice against Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan, while avoiding Marc-Edward Eduard Eduoard Edouard Vlasic’s suffocating coverage.

The fact of the matter is, that the Canucks likely would’ve been able to sneak out a win on Wednesday night had they gotten anything from their top line, but they didn’t. As a result they now face a Game 2 which they probably have to have if they plan on playing deeper into the postseason. But is it really a "must-win" as the team’s captain has proclaimed? 

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It doesn’t necessarily take any sort of historical or statistical evidence to come to the conclusion that going down 0-2 in a series isn’t exactly an optimal situation to put yourself in as a team. Given how tightly contested each series in playoff hockey is – you’ll occasionally have your Blackhawks/Wild or Bruins/Leafs, but more often than not these things are usually toss-ups – asking yourself to win 4 out of 6 games against a worthy opponent isn’t a recipe for success. That’s obvious.

But I went through the historical vaults, in an attempt to pinpoint how teams that have gone down 0-2 in the past typically wound up faring. The answer? Not well.

A team has lost the first 2 games of the series 291 times in playoff history.

That same team has dug out of that hole en route to winning the series just 37 times total. That’s 12.7% of the time.

Taking it a step further, the team with home-ice advantage has dropped the first 2 games at home and still found a way to win the series just 9 times in the past 20 years. As you’ll probably recall, one of those involved Dan Cloutier, Nicklas Lidstrom, and a beach ball. 

With another loss in Game 2, history would already be against the Canucks. Unfortunately the hole gets even deeper once you consider their opponent, and their home/road splits this season:

  Sharks Home Sharks Road
Record 17-2-5 8-14-2
5v5 GF/60 2.29 1.70
5v5 GA/60 1.63 2.34

Once again, not overly surprising, but the Sharks were a significantly better team in the friendly confines of the Shark Tank than they were in opposing arenas. It’s hard to imagine this current incarnation of the Canucks taking 2 out of 3 games there, which is something they’d be forced to do.

Over the course of the season you’ll often see people get overly dramatic, throwing around the term "must-win" rather loosely. As an example, I can distinctly recall a game against the Minnesota Wild back in March that had that sort of narrative attached to it. Well, the Canucks wound up losing that game, yet that didn’t stop them from eventually capturing the Northwest Division title.

I think in this particular occasion though, it’s okay to throw that term around. Game 2 is indeed a must-win for the Vancouver Canucks. No pressure or anything, but either they win on Friday night or they’re one big step closer towards a long offseason full of change.

  • BrudnySeaby

    I keep seeing comments on how the loser of this series will see major changes.

    I don’t know about San Jose, but let’s assume it’s the Canucks.

    How the heck are these major changes supposed to be, beyond just firing the coach?

    The Sedins, Kesler, Luongo, Hamhuis and Garrison all have NTCs.

    That’s the core right there. Unless you’re going to trade Schneider, the only other trades I could consider major would be Hansen and Burrows…but those aren’t the guys you’d want to get rid of.

    • billm

      They can basically blow-up the entire bottom half of the roster. Raymond is gone for sure and the entire 4th line needs to be replaced and it’s possible becasue they are all free agents of some sort. Edler and Booth are big question marks (I’d say give them one more shot and if it isnt working by the trade deadline try and move them) and Ive seen enough of Roy to not want him back.

      Keep Sedins, Burrows, Kesler, Hansen, Kassian, Bieksa, Hamius, Garrison, Edler, Tanev, Corrado, Schnieder and try to keep Alberts – Thats 14 players, that means 9 new faces can be brought in.

      If they really wanted to shake things up though I think they would have to trade away a couple pieces of the core. If the Canucks lose in the first round go to every single player with an NTC and ask for a list of teams they would be willing to be traded too and then go from there.

    • Brent

      that is a great question. I see it more as “statement” changes. So the GM will probably get fired. The team itself will remain fairly similar but with a new GM comes a new vision. That’s the type of change that will most likely happen.

  • Brent

    Agree, this is a must win game. I think they will win this one. The Sedin’s and Kessler are going to wi the one for us. But I am not overly optimistic they are going to win the series. Losing home ice advantage was a big deal.