It’s Now or Never for the Canucks to Make a Playoff Push

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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA TODAY Sports

The Canucks started 2017 the exact way they finished the year prior — by winning. String those bookends together, and that’s four in a row.

While most are revving up the playoff engine, there’s a contingency more reserved in their excitement. Given how the Canucks followed up their last four win run, that’s fair enough. The Canucks lost nine straight, scoring in only six of those games, and went 10-18-3 leading into this four-game rise. Once bitten, twice shy.

Eight of the nine teams they played immediately following their last streak are playoff competitors, though. At the very least, they’ve all remained in the chase. The Canucks face playoff teams in four of their twelve games in January; four of those games, they play against teams immediately ahead of them in the West.

If the Canucks want to make good on their stated goal to make the playoffs, it’s now or never. Unrealistic as that may have seemed even a week or two ago, it’s not an impossibility. In fact, there are a few reasons to believe it might even be plausible. They’re three points out, a distance they can cover in two games

That’s hard to reconcile given the Canucks place in the league by most predictive metrics. They’re a bottom five expected goals team; bottom ten by Corsi for.

They’ve also played more than a third of their season without their top pair defenceman. It’s hard to say how much better the Canucks would be with Chris Tanev and Alex Edler playing a full slate of games. I don’t imagine their presence raises Vancouver from the red, but it’s probably a step in the right direction.

Assuming the injury that kept Tanev from practice yesterday isn’t serious, that’s a theory the Canucks can test in earnest.

Health is one factor in the Canucks favour as they turn the calendar on 2016. For the most part, anyways. That’s going to help them improve their ability to control the shot clock.

Better still, the Canucks getting the odd save is helping them outperform their shot share nightly. Vancouver’s suffered the 23rd worst 5v5 save percentage over the season. They’ve played in front of the league’s eighth best in the last ten games.

Seventy teams in the Behind the Net Era have fielded a worse score and venue adjusted Corsi for than the 2016-17 Canucks. Only eleven of those teams made the playoffs. The lowest even strength save percentage among those teams was a .921. The Canucks are getting .935 goaltending from Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller in their last ten games.

That’s not going to last, but if their goaltending doesn’t fall off a cliff, they’re well past the threshold for poor shot share teams that have made the playoffs.

We’re not talking about a good team, but that’s not exactly news. The Canucks are everything we thought they were going into the season. That’s a team that, with enough things going their way, can compete for a playoff spot.

Vancouver’s as healthy as they’ve been all season. They’re at the soft underbelly of their schedule, and their goaltending and special teams are starting to turn around for the better. You don’t have to be good to make the playoffs. You just have to have enough things go your way sometimes.

This isn’t a probable scenario. It’s not like anyone expects Vancouver to run the table in the course of a month. And eventually, the competition gets stiffer. A lot stiffer. That’s exactly why they have to stack up points now. Banked points can go a long way towards overcoming poor overall performance.

It’s to the Canucks credit that this is even a possibility. This season was so close to falling off the rails on so many occasions. How many times was the coach one game from being fired, only to have his team pull off the improbable and string together a plucky win or two?

Now it’s time to flaunt that defiance two-fold in the faces of everyone who thought the playoffs a laughable notion. They might not get that same opportunity again.

  • TD

    “The Canucks lost nine straight, scoring in only six of those games, and went 10-18-3 leading into this four-game rise. Once bitten, twice shy.”

    Always looking at things negatively. You get rid of their 2 four game win streaks but leave in the 9 game losing streak. Nothing you said isn’t true, but it is always slanted to the negative. How about this:

    “Removing the 3 streaks (2 x 4 game winning streaks and the 9 game losing streak) the Canucks are 10-9-3. That’s probably not good enough for a playoff spot but its not far off.”

    That’s actually a fair examination of the situation. The two winning streaks are every bit as relevant as the long losing streak.

    As far as “once bitten, twice shy”, why are you only bitten by the losing streak and not the winning streaks?

    You can be fair, while also not being happy about the teams decisions. For example, you could (and often do) state that the team should tank and look for picks. That’s fair and I don’t disagree with you, but that’s not what they did. They still have Hansen, Edler, Burrows and the twins and went out and signed Erikkson. You don’t have to agree with the decisions that were made by management (or ownership) but that doesn’t mean you need to report everything as negatively as possible.

    • Donald's Hat Trick

      How many of the games in their streak did they win in a commanding fashion? Half of the goals were from lucky bounces and it also included two divisional overtime results. They deserve credit for winning but to be talking playoffs is really lol.

      • TD

        I agree with you and don’t think they are a playoff team. But to be fair, they were unlucky during the 9 game streak. They have an easy January which will probably keep them in the race long enough that they don’t sell at the trade deadline. They will then come up short of the playoffs but have performed too well to not get a good pick.

        That was not my point. My point was JD does not have to always present everything in a negative of a light as possible. I think they need to rebuild and shouldn’t have signed Erikkson, but they did. Disagree with management but report fairly on the team.

        • Donald's Hat Trick

          Just because the schedule is easier doesn’t mean that the team is suddenly better, we agree that they have hardly shown any improvement.

          How many backup goalies have they played against this season? Based on their place in the standings teams are more likely to view them as a night off than an opponent to fear.

          They play San Jose 5 times before the end of the season, how many of those games will they win?*
          Just look at the schedule, what are their odds of winning 24 games (or whatever needed to make the playoff floor)?

          *assuming San Jose hasn’t clinched already lol.

      • DJ_44

        There are two sides to the coin; if you look at one, you have to look at the other. During their 9 game loosing streak, the were incredibly unlucky not to win three of the those games (Edm(H), Mtl(A), Ott(A)). They outplayed their opponent by every measure, except the most important one.

        Judging by PDO, they are still due some move favourable bounces.

  • Big D, little d

    >> How many times was the coach one game from being fired ….

    According to the CA writers? Thirty-nine times (so far).

    In reality? Probably zero.

    I don’t have the privilege of hanging around the Canucks head office so I really have no idea, but I’m guessing that Willie’s job has never been as much in jeopardy as some people like to make believe.

  • Bud Poile

    “They’ve also played more than a third of their season without their top pair defenceman. It’s hard to say how much better the Canucks would be with Chris Tanev and Alex Edler playing a full slate of games. I don’t imagine their presence raises Vancouver from the red, but it’s probably a step in the right direction.” J.D.

    With Tanev and now Edler back they have strung together four in a row and are a .500 team.

    There were some 20 games without Tanev,Edler and Hansen.Just 2 more wins and the Canucks are in 7th place in the west and with just 3 more wins and they would be 5th in the western conference.

    The Canucks are definitely a playoff competitive team,just as promised by J.D’s favourite NHL GM.

    “We’re not talking about a good team, but that’s not exactly news. The Canucks are everything we thought they were going into the season. That’s a team that, with enough things going their way, can compete for a playoff spot.” J.D. Burke Jan.04,2017

    “As with most things in life, the Canucks likely can’t have their cake and eat it too. They’ll probably need to get worse before they get appreciably better. They might not be a 65 point team, but they’re probably not a playoff team either.” J.D. Burke Oct.15,2016

  • JuiceBox

    It’ll likely take just 90 points to get into the playoffs this year. They’ll need at least 51 points in their last 43 games 24-16-3. I think it’s a stretch for this team to pull it off but I guess anything is possible.

  • ned

    Not sure if they’ll be a playoff team, but I like they’re chances, because they’ve looked much better and more confident since Edler and Tanev have come back, not to mention any team other than Colorado and Arizona in the West has a shot at making playoffs this year.

  • KCasey

    Despite being fond of drafting high, I find myself falling more towards the idea of sneaking into a back door playoff spot. This draft class is rather weak in comparison to most years making anything other Nolan Patrick a crap shoot in regards to hitting pay dirt. Even in the scenario Canucks finish dead last we still dont have the glory shot at 1st pick. We could be laughed at twice over for being horrible skill wise and luck wise. If we snuck in the playoffs and got some of our young guys an experiance they can hold onto for the next shot at it, while also drafting in the 14-17 range, than draft guru Benning could always make the magic happen anyways. I love the fantasy of landing the coveted #1 pick but banking everything on it at the expense of the prospects already at this level would be a travesty. I should probably use Colorado here as an example of what happens when your loaded with young prospects and fail to enforce winning. They were deadly for a stretch and than fell off….and stayed off….and now looking like they could start shipping out there best young peices, one of which is there captain. That is not how teams get better. Teams get better by simply being better. Insert Columbas Blue Jackets. I shall cap this peice off with some biased picked qoutes from Vince Lombardi.

    ‘Winning isnt eveything, but wanting to win is’

    ‘Winning is haibit. Unfortunately so is losing’

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    If we have absolutely zero injuries to our top 6/top 4/goalies then we may have a chance to make the playoffs as the last seed. I love this team winning right now but I don’t want to mortgage any picks/prospects for an old, nearly washed up rental. I don’t think we can bank on the playoffs, I expect us to decline a bit. Let’s just ride this squad out for a while, buy low on young pieces if necessary but let’s basically just not raise the average age of this lineup. Come deadline time we can properly evaluate our team and the market for any vets we see as expendable. However, despite this ominous tone I need to express how happy I am with these wins. Our young players are making great waves. Tanking sounds nice but winning games every once in a while is pretty damn good for the young players. Just nice to see that we can outperform teams. Look forward to the new year!

  • The_Blueline

    I like the notion that this season was so close to fall of the rails on so many occasions.

    Cudos to WD to (almost) always keep the battle level high. This team might not have a lot of talent, but they sure have character. Now what’s that worth long term? Let’s wait and see

  • KCasey

    Despite being fond of drafting high, I find myself falling more towards the idea of sneaking into a back door playoff spot. This draft class is rather weak in comparison to most years making anything other Nolan Patrick a crap shoot in regards to hitting pay dirt. Even in the scenario Canucks finish dead last we still dont have the glory shot at 1st pick. We could be laughed at twice over for being horrible skill wise and luck wise. If we snuck in the playoffs and got some of our young guys an experiance they can hold onto for the next shot at it, while also drafting in the 14-17 range, than draft guru Benning could always make the magic happen anyways. I love the fantasy of landing the coveted #1 pick but banking everything on it at the expense of the prospects already at this level would be a travesty. I should probably use Colorado here as an example of what happens when your loaded with young prospects and fail to enforce winning. They were deadly for a stretch and than fell off….and stayed off….and now looking like they could start shipping out there best young peices, one of which is there captain. That is not how teams get better. Teams get better by simply being better. Insert Columbas Blue Jackets. I shall cap this peice off with some biased picked qoutes from Vince Lombardi.

    ‘Winning isnt eveything, but wanting to win is’

    ‘Winning is haibit. Unfortunately so is losing’