Breaking down the final month of the Vancouver Canucks’ hunt for the 2022 playoffs

Photo credit:© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 year ago
As you read these words, the Vancouver Canucks are entering the final month of the 2021/22 regular season and — seemingly against the odds — they’re still in the hunt for a spot in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If you had told someone back in November that the Canucks would still be playing meaningful games on the cusp of April, they would have assumed you were talking about draft position. Few pundits gave the Canucks much of a chance this year, and even fewer did after the Canucks started the season in Hindenburg-esque fashion under coach Travis Green.
But it’s been a whole new season since Bruce Boudreau, and it’s one that won’t truly be over until we’re down to the wire.
Below, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the remaining schedules of those teams the Canucks are still reasonably competing with for a spot in either the top-three of the Pacific Division or — more realistically — in one of two Western Conference wild card positions. We’ll be looking at their slate of opponents, statistical strength of schedule, and how many “four-point games” they’ve got left against the Canucks, in an attempt to suss out the Canucks’ true chances of seeing postseason action come May.
Keeping the Calgary Flames and their 88 points (with three games in hand!), that leaves us with the Los Angeles Kings, the Edmonton Oilers, the Nashville Predators, the Vegas Golden Knights, the Dallas Stars, the Winnipeg Jets, and, of course, the Canucks themselves.
Only four of these teams will make it.
But which four will it be?
*Note: All records compiled prior to games on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Top-three divisional leaders are underlined in schedule.

Los Angeles Kings

Record: 36-23-9 (81 points)
Remaining Games: 14
Remaining Opponents: Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Anaheim, Chicago, Anaheim, Seattle, Vancouver
Strength of Schedule (via Tankathon):
1.104 (18th toughest)
Games Remaining Against Canucks: 1
The Kings were never meant to make it this far toward playoff contention, either, but they’re there now, and it’s tough to imagine them missing it at this point. Despite another injury to Drew Doughty, the Kings are clipping along at a great pace and get to enjoy a relatively easy schedule from here on out with lots of soft opponents. Eight points behind already, the Canucks will be in tough to catch them and should focus their attention elsewhere.

Edmonton Oilers

Record: 37-25-5 (79 points)
Remaining Games: 15
Remaining Opponents: Los Angeles, St. Louis, Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Colorado, Minnesota, Nashville, Vegas, Dallas, Colorado, Columbus, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Vancouver
Strength of Schedule (via Tankathon):
1.191 (2nd toughest)
Games Remaining Against Canucks: 1
On the one hand, the Oilers are nearly as far ahead of the Canucks as the Kings, and have an additional game in hand to play with. On the other, the Oilers are still suffering from some extremely-inadequate goaltending, and will be facing the second-toughest remaining schedule in the entire league. There’s a real chance that the Oilers could drop a fair bit from here, and it’s well within the realm of possibility that the final matchup of the regular season between Edmonton and Vancouver could have some very real stakes. The safest bet, however, is that the Oilers maintain at least some of their edge over the Canucks.

Nashville Predators

Record: 38-24-4 (80 points)
Remaining Games: 16
Remaining Opponents: Ottawa, Buffalo, Minnesota, Ottawa, Florida, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Edmonton, Chicago, St. Louis, Calgary, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Calgary, Colorado, Arizona
Strength of Schedule (via Tankathon):
1.150 (t-10th toughest)
Games Remaining Against Canucks: 0
The Canucks don’t really have much hope of catching the Predators. Nashville is up seven points, has two games in hand, and is currently cruising without any injuries of note. The only thing that might hold them back is a difficult remaining schedule featuring plenty of games against legitimate contenders, but that’s probably not going to be enough to shunt them out of a wild card spot. If anything, Nashville could still end up in the top-three of the Central Division.

Vegas Golden Knights

Record: 36-28-4 (76 points)
Remaining Games: 14
Remaining Opponents: Seattle, Seattle, Vancouver, Vancouver, Arizona, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, New Jersey, Washington, San Jose, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis
Strength of Schedule (via Tankathon):
1.016 (31st toughest)
Games Remaining Against Canucks: 3
The Golden Knights represent the Canucks’ best chance of having a direct hand in their own fate. Though the Knights are blessed with the second-easiest remaining schedule, that’s only based on their quality of opponent. Vegas themselves are besieged by a preposterous number of injuries, including to franchise stars Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Robin Lehner, and that can’t help but to hamper them. Best of all? The Canucks will get three opportunities to snatch four points from the Golden Knights in direct head-to-head matchups, starting with the upcoming home-and-home. If any games on the schedule are truly must-wins this season, it’s those three.

Dallas Stars

Record: 36-25-3 (75 points)
Remaining Games: 18 games
Remaining Opponents: Anaheim, Anaheim, San Jose, Seattle, New York Islanders, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, San Jose, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Seattle, Vegas, Arizona, Anaheim
Strength of Schedule (via Tankathon):
1.026 (30th toughest)
Games Remaining Against Canucks: 1
The Dallas Stars are the sleeping tiger in the West through the final month of the season. Their schedule is third-easiest from here on out, and they’ve got games in hand on just about everyone. They chose to hold onto their chips at the Trade Deadline, and they don’t have to worry about any significant injuries. The Canucks will absolutely need to win their one remaining game against the Stars, and the rest of it will be out of their hands. Vancouver will have to rely on their divisional mates, like Seattle, Anaheim, and San Jose, to play spoilers for the Stars.

Winnipeg Jets

Record: 32-25-10 (74 points)
Remaining Games: 15
Remaining Opponents: Buffalo, Toronto, Los Angeles, Detroit, Colorado, Ottawa, Montreal, Seattle, Florida, Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Carolina, Colorado, Philadelphia, Calgary
Strength of Schedule (via Tankathon):
1.150 (t-10th toughest)
Games Remaining Against Canucks: 0
At one point, it looked as though the Jets were out of it, but they’ve been storming back after selling a few pieces at the Trade Deadline, and they’re still very much in the race. A bunch of games against top Cup contenders will mean that the Jets really have to earn their playoff spot, but if they do, the Canucks won’t have any say in it, as they do not play Winnipeg again this season. Expect the Jets to be the source of plenty of stress from here on out.

Vancouver Canucks

Record: 32-27-9 (73 points)
Remaining Games: 14
Remaining Opponents: St. Louis, Vegas, Vegas, Arizona, San Jose, Vegas, Arizona, Dallas, Ottawa, Minnesota, Calgary, Seattle, Los Angeles, Edmonton
Strength of Schedule (via Tankathon):
1.051 (27th toughest)
Games Remaining Against The Other Six: 6
You can state this about the Canucks: they’ll have a lot to say about where they finish in the final standings of the 2021/22 season. With six of their remaining 14 games against teams they’re directly competing with for a playoff spot, the Canucks will have something to play for on a near-nightly basis. Unfortunately, the hole they dug for themselves in the early stages of the season means that they could do everything right through April and still find themselves on the outside of the postseason looking in, and the odds are still statistically against them. But an easy remaining schedule filled to the brim with four-point games is a far better situation than most expected the Canucks to be in by this point in the season.
We’re saying there’s a chance.

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