For the first time since late December, the Canucks went to sleep on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
As Jeff Paterson pointed out on Twitter, the Canucks dipped below a playoff spot last week but brought themselves right back into it with their win against the Avalanche in Colorado. But, after the Winnipeg Jets picked up a key win over the Arizona Coyotes last night, they jumped the idle Canucks in the standings.
Vancouver now sits in a tie with the Nashville Predators for ninth place in the Western Conference. They’re one point back of the Minnesota Wild with a game in hand for the final wild-card spot and they’re three points back of the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division with two games in hand.
The Canucks’ recent skid can clearly be tied to the absence of Jacob Markstrom. Since Markstrom was placed on the Injured Reserve after undergoing a “minor lower-body procedure,” the Canucks have won just two of seven games. But even going beyond Markstrom’s absence, Vancouver’s poor play goes back even further.
Over at Pass It To Bulis, Ryan Lambert pointed out that Vancouver’s tailspin isn’t just about losing Markstrom. The team had been showing ugly underlying numbers for quite some time and they had been propped up by elite goaltending and high-percentage shooting. The team is also navigating a much more difficult schedule as of late in contrast to the fairly soft schedule they had early on.
With Markstrom playing incredibly well in net, the team’s struggles are a lot easier to mask. Without him? Not so much. According to Dan Riccio on Twitter, only one team, the basement-dwelling Detroit Red Wings, have put up fewer points than the Canucks since the beginning of February. Of course, some of that has to do with Markstrom’s injury, but the Canucks went 4-4-2 in February before he went on the shelf.
Unfortunately for the Canucks and their playoff chase, there isn’t an update on Markstrom or a date in which he’s expected to return to action. He was placed on the Injured Reserve on Feb. 24 and it was announced that he would be re-evaluated after two weeks. It’s now been two weeks and there hasn’t been an update on Markstrom. I would assume one is coming soon.
In better news, Brock Boeser took part in the team’s morning skate on Sunday, meaning a return could come much earlier than expected.
Brock Boeser, who has been sidelined with a rib injury since mid-February, took part in the Canucks' morning skate today 👀
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 8, 2020
One month ago, Boeser suffered a rib cartilage fracture against the Calgary Flames and it was originally assumed he could end up missing the rest of the regular season. The original diagnosis was that Boeser would miss eight weeks of action. It’s been just slightly over a month and Boeser is apparently close to returning to the lineup.
“It’s always exciting to skate with the guys and it feels good to be out there. I felt pretty good out there, so, hopefully, I’ll be back soon,” Boeser said.
Could it be that the Canucks misdiagnosed the severity of Boeser’s injury? Did he heal quicker than expected? Or is he being rushed back to help salvage the team’s playoff hopes? It’s hard to say, but getting Boeser back in the lineup in mid-March certainly isn’t something anybody expected.
Earlier in the season, Shea Weber suffered an ankle injury that was apparently so bad that it would likely be season-ending and potentially career-threatening. Under a week later, Weber was back to skating with the team and he made a return to the lineup shortly after. The whole thing was bizarre and, at no point, did Weber have any doubts about his future.
It’s a bit of a puzzling situation, but it seems it could be by design rather than a miscalculation or a miraculous recovery. Given the fact the Canucks left enough cap room to activate Boeser from the Long Term Injured Reserve, it seems as though his return had always been anticipated by the club.