How the Canucks could have a successful end of their season even with missing the playoffs
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang10 months ago
It would take a miracle for the Vancouver Canucks to make the 2021-22 NHL playoffs. Their chances stand somewhere around 0.1% depending on who you ask and if it weren’t for a buzzer-beater goal by Sharks forward Timo Meier with one second left on Sunday night, they’d already be eliminated.
While it’s a disappointing end to what has been an exhilarating second half of the NHL season and the team did not reach the achievements they desired, all is not lost. There have been plenty of positives to take away from this season that should be cause for excitement for the future. The Canucks have played like a top-ten NHL team under Bruce Boudreau and his likely return next season gives hope that they could be one of the better Pacific Division teams.
Of course, the Canucks aren’t done fighting yet. They’re going to keep pushing until the buzzer has sounded on game 82 and there’s no hockey left to play.
“We’re still alive. If you give up hope then you’re done so you always have to believe that there’s a chance,” commented Boudreau as he sizes up the monumental task ahead.
While crazier things have happened, the Canucks likely have a better chance at ever moving up in the draft lottery than making the playoffs this season, though it’s hard to compare such minuscule percentages. That being said, barely missing the playoffs after a historically bad start to the season doesn’t mean that the season has to be graded as a complete disaster.
Saying that, here are three things that would make the Canucks last few games a success even if they don’t reach the playoffs.
Quinn Hughes obliterates the franchise record
At just 22-years-old, Hughes has tied the Canucks’ franchise record for most points in a season by a defenceman. His 63 points in 73 games this year have tied Doug Lidster’s mark set in 1986-87 achieved in 80 games. From the moment that Hughes touched the ice as a rookie, it was obvious that he would be a candidate to rewrite the Canucks’ record books and he’s started doing just that at only 22 years of age.
He’s the most dynamic blueliner to ever wear a Canucks’ jersey and one of the most proficient power play quarterbacks in the NHL. Young, mobile defencemen are creating a movement across the league and the Canucks are lucky that they have one of the best.
“He’s just touched the tip of the iceberg. He’s learning how to play still, there’s room for jumping into the play more that he’ll learn with experience,” said Boudreau. “In the next 10 years, he might break it [Lidster’s record] every year.”
It would be great to see Hughes have a few multi-point games to end out the season and shatter the record in style. No matter how many points he beats it by, the newly established mark won’t be around for long as he continues to evolve into a better player.
Canucks show some fight and backbone
While their playoff chances may be slim, it would be disappointing to see the Canucks roll over for their last few games. They’ve had a tough stretch over the past few months with plenty of pressure on every game and players toughing out injuries to stay on the ice. The fatigue has become noticeable during this latter part of the season and it would be easy for the Canucks to hand in mediocre efforts from here on out.
Even if it doesn’t result in a playoff birth, the Canucks winning their last three games would be an encouraging sign. All three games are against division rivals and finishing off on a high note would be a good way to create a little momentum.
Organization gets to evaluate young players
Last but not least, the Canucks could have a successful end of season if they manage to get a look at some of their younger players in NHL action. Goalie Spencer Martin immediately comes to mind as someone who’s played very well in his showing this season and it would be worthwhile to get another look at him.
“If you’re putting Spencer [Martin] in, that means that other things have happened,” said Boudreau. “If Demmer [Demko] can play, he’s gonna play and if we’re eliminated then there are different scenarios that can happen.”
Martin has a .958 save percentage and a 1.59 goals-against-average across three starts this season. Those numbers are very impressive and handing the young netminder another start would be good experience for a potential full-time backup role next season. It would be worthwhile to get other young players a look with the big club such as Jack Rathbone or even just handing Vasily Podkolzin a much larger role.
What do the Canucks need to do in your eyes to make these last few games a success even if they’re eliminated from the playoffs?
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