How The Canucks Can Still Make The Playoffs


Is it just me, or does that look a lot like Zack Kassian?

Depending on how you look at it, the Vancouver Canucks were either handed a gift on Sunday afternoon or cursed to remain painfully clinging to their last ounces of life on their deathbed as old friend Roberto Luongo stepped up and delivered a quality performance, stopping 35 of 37 shots as his Florida Panthers beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 in regulation to hold the Stars at 87 points on the season. Any Stars win would have given them 89 points on the year and put out of reach of the Vancouver Canucks as the Stars would own the tiebreaker.

Of course, this means that there’s still a distantly remote possibility that Vancouver can make the playoffs to meet the vulnerable St. Louis Blues in the first round. Just how can they pull this off? I’m glad you asked. Read past the jump to find out.

wildcard standings

Vancouver has 4 games remaining on their schedule, and can reach a maximum of 89 points and 34 regulation or overtime wins (ROW). ROWs are important because they’re the first tiebreaker for determining whether a team makes the playoffs. As a result, any two points from the Dallas Stars will eliminate Vancouver because while Vancouver can tie them in points, Dallas is guaranteed to win the first tiebreaker. Therefore, Vancouver must finish the season with more points than Dallas, which means picking up a minimum of 7 points in their next eight games. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Vancouver must go 3-0-1 if Dallas loses their next 4 games in regulation, or
  2. Vancouver must go 4-0-0 if Dallas goes 0-3-1 in their next 4 games.
In short, any Vancouver Canucks regulation loss eliminates Vancouver, and any Dallas Stars win eliminates Vancouver.

Here is where things get interesting: Dallas and Phoenix play each other on the final day of the regular season, so one of those teams is guaranteed at least two points the rest of the way. We know that a Dallas win will eliminate Vancouver, so for the Canucks to have a chance at making the playoffs, the Phoenix Coyotes must win that game. This would put Phoenix at 88 points. Fortunately, Vancouver would likely own the tiebreaker on the Coyotes should they be tied in points as it’s unlikely that Vancouver would win three or four consecutive games in a shootout and both teams currently have an identical number of ROWs on the year.

If Vancouver is to make the playoffs, Phoenix can only finish with a maximum of 89 points, and the Canucks need at least one ROW if the ‘Yotes beat the Stars in a shootout, or two ROWs if they beat Dallas in regulation or overtime. Phoenix owns the second tiebreaker, which is head-to-head record, going 3-2-0 against Vancouver in the season series.

You may have noticed that for Vancouver to pass Dallas, Phoenix gets a minimum of 88 points on the year. This means that one more win plus a victory over the Stars puts the Coyotes at 90 points. So, any Phoenix Coyotes win in their next 3 games eliminates Vancouver.

Of course, there are also the Nashville Predators to account for. They are in an identical position as the Canucks, except they can finish with a maximum of 89 points and 37 ROWs. Here’s another fun thing: their next two games are against the Dallas Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes. Of course, for Vancouver to have a chance to catch Dallas and Phoenix, then Nashville must win both of those games and at least one must be in regulation. This gives Nashville 85 points on the year, with two games remaining against Chicago and Minnesota. Should the Predators win both of those games, they will also reach 89 points on the year. The Canucks hold the second tiebreaker, but Nashville currently has more ROWs. A ROW that is needed against Dallas or Phoenix will put them at 34 on the year, which is as many as the Canucks can acquire. So a second ROW in their final four games will give Nashville the tiebreak over Vancouver should they each finish the season with the same number of points.

While not conference rivals any longer, the Columbus Blue Jackets are also facing the Stars and Coyotes on Tuesday and Thursday. While it doesn’t matter what they do the rest of the way, Vancouver also needs two Blue Jackets wins this week to stay alive.

But, the most relevant bit of information is this: any Nashville Predators or Columbus Blue Jackets loss between now and Thursday eliminates Vancouver.

Let’s make the assumption that Vancouver runs the table, beating Anaheim, Colorado, Edmonton, and Calgary. Putting everything above together, here’s what needs to happen for them to make the playoffs:

  • Dallas goes 0-3-1 or worse.
  • Phoenix goes 1-2-1 or worse, but the one win must be against Dallas on April 13th.
  • Nashville goes 3-0-1 or worse, but no worse than 2-2-0 with wins over both Dallas and Phoenix.
A Canucks overtime loss sometime in the next 4 games just means that Dallas and Phoenix need to go 0-4-0 and 1-3-0 instead, which is extremely unlikely. But no matter what happens, Vancouver’s fate is largely in the hands of the Predators and Blue Jackets for the time being. Should either of those teams lose this week, the season is over.

Of course, this will all be rendered moot with a loss to the Ducks tomorrow, but hey, if you’re on #TeamTank, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Brent

    I’ll admit it, I’m on #teamtank. Although it sucks watching the Canucks lose and it sucks for the fans attending the games who don’t want to pay to see a loss, from a detached perspective losing the rest of our games is a good thing for the Canucks. We’re not going to make the playoffs, so if we can improve our draft pick by losing we can at least have something slightly positive come out of this season. Although this draft year is supposedly not very deep, so maybe the losing wouldn’t net us an impact players anyways…

  • Brent

    So the guy that wrote about the “most likely” outcome for Bo Horvat while basically ignoring all other possible outcomes decides to write 900+ word piece on probably the lease likely outcome for the Canucks’ season…