Scouting The Matchups: Stadium-Chinatown Assess Canucks Potential First-Round Opponents.

By: Trent Leith / April 12, 2024  

The playoff race in the Western Conference this year is not the most thrilling. Unless St. Louis can make up a three-point gap on the Vegas Golden Knights in only three games, otherwise the West is decided. The only thing left for the Canucks to play for is playoff seeding and trying to win the Pacific Division.

The Canucks are four points up on Edmonton for the lead in the Pacific, but the Oilers have two games in hand on the Canucks. While with every passing game, it becomes less and less likely the Oilers will catch the Canucks, it’s far from impossible. However, McDavid being injured and considered DTD doesn’t help the Oilers’ chances. But more than just winning the division is on the line, in theory, the better the opponent, in the form of the better the match-up is on the line as well.

The Canucks could be facing one of the LA Kings (95 points, three games remaining), the Vegas Golden Knights (92 points, four games remaining) or the Nashville Predators (95 points, three games remaining. Depending on who finishes where in the wildcard race, and who reigns supreme in the standings.

We decided to poll the writers here at to see how they think the Canucks will fare against each of the potential first-round matchups

LA Kings


I do not want to watch between four and seven more games of the LA Kings. From a pure entertainment standpoint, I want no part of the LA Kings. As a fan, how frustrating has it been watching the LA Kings line up in the infamous 1-3-1 and simply smother the Canucks in the most boring fashion? How frustrating was it listening to fans boo the Canucks for not pressing offensively due to the 1-3-1 and failing to recognize that the game is boring because of the way the Kings play? How frustrating has it been seeing Kings fans on Twitter making fun of Canucks fans for complaining about the 1-3-1?

I want no part of that. However, I see the Kings as the most beatable team if you can crack the 1-3-1. The Kings have resorted to playing the 1-3-1 because that seems to be the only way they can collect wins. If the Canucks match up with the Kings, they simply must find a way to produce offence against the Kings. The Canucks had four cracks at it this season and only collected one win in the season series. It might be easier to crack the system when you spend two weeks solely focusing on it.

I just simply don’t want to see it.


This very well may be the least exciting of the three potential series, due in large part to LA’s conservative puck-moving style. But this would still be an entertaining series to watch, because of how close it could likely be. On paper, the Canucks are the better team in a lot of ways. The Canucks are first in the Pacific to the Kings’ third, the Canucks have more regulation wins than the Kings, and more total goals for this year, in addition to a statistically stronger power play and penalty kill across the season as well.

Yet in practice, the Canucks have only won a single of their four recent meetings with the Kings, and that win came narrowly in overtime. It would be best if the Canucks can avoid the Kings in the opening round simply due to their recent and consistent track record of falling flat against the team.


As Trent mentioned above, no one wants to see this match-up for the sole reason that Los Angeles plays boring hockey. Their 1-3-1 formation is a nightmare to play against, and the Canucks don’t match up well against it. Since the all-star break, Vancouver has been in the bottom half for almost all important offensive stats. In the four games they have played Los Angeles this season, they only scored more than two goals in one, a 6-3 loss.

Although the Kings don’t have the firepower to match the other two potential opponents, or the Cancuks themselves, they’re deep throughout the lineup and their playstyle is a poor stylistic match-up for the Canucks’ rush offence. By the time the Canucks figure out how to break through consistently, it might be too late.

Regardless of any arguments for or against; Canucks fans have gone almost 10 years without playoff hockey at Rogers Arena and do just not deserve to watch a 1-3-1 defence as their welcome-back gift.

Las Vegas Golden Knights


While going up against the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round sounds scary, the Canucks have had a mixed regular season experience against the Golden Knights. I think Vegas is a favourable match-up for the Canucks in the first round. Yes, Mark Stone is waiting in the wings for his return come playoff time, but even still the Canucks have the pieces they need to pull out wins over Vegas.

Upon Demko’s return, Vancouver’s goaltending will be far and away elevated above Vegas’. The Canucks also have three point-per-game players this year, with Miller, Hughes and Pettersson, whereas Vegas only has Jack Eichel averaging above a point-per-game. Making the Canucks superior firepower a perfect fit with Vegas’ inferior goaltending.

It would also simply be a great story for Vancouver to beat not only the defending champs, but the team that ended their last playoff run in the bubble year as well.


Vegas has been fairly streaky throughout the last month, and are currently on a three-game losing streak. Those losses include a loss to Arizona that saw them give up 6 goals in the third period to erase a 4-1 lead. They then lost to Vancouver, who came back in the second period. Then on Wednesday night, they got absolutely dominated by an Oilers team playing without McDavid. Not a strong run of hockey.

Three games don’t tell a whole story, though. The playoffs are a different beast and the Knights have shown they can dance with the best. With Stone’s injury before the trade deadline, Las Vegas had the space to bring in both Noah Hanafin and Tomas Hertl. Making them by far the biggest buyers at the deadline and showing that they are all in for a second run at the Cup.

Unlike the Kings, the Canucks match up better stylistically against the Knights. However, When Stone returns, no other potential opponents have that type of game-breaker on their roster. Not only are the Knights a deep team, but their top players can hang with the best.

Although they will likely be the toughest first-round match-up, the potential to return the favour from the Bubble as Brayden touched on, will also make them the most satisfying to beat. And if we can’t beat them in the first round, we won’t be able to in the later rounds.


Everyone talks about the VGK being a “sleeping giant” in the West. Sure, they are the reigning cup winners and when healthy, they are the deepest team in the NHL, but that is the caveat. The Golden Knights simply aren’t healthy. Tomas Hertl recently returned, and so did Adin Hill, but players still missing from the roster are; Chandler Stephenson, William Carrier, Alex Pietrangelo, Nicolas Roy, Mark Stone and Robin Lehner.

Are some of those guys going to be back before the playoffs? Yeah probably. But this team has not been 100% at any point this season. We simply don’t know what this team’s ceiling is, or what their floor is. Players seem to be dropping like flies before every outing for the Golden Knights. I don’t expect the team will be 100% healthy for the start of the playoffs, even if some players return.

The Canucks on the other hand *knocks on wood* have managed to stay mostly healthy throughout the year. With Demko and Lindholm on the brink of returning from injury, this team is healthy. At least far healthier than the Golden Knights.

Are they a sleeping giant? Yes absolutely. But will the giant be fully awake for the start of the playoffs? I am not convinced. The Canucks have split the season series with VGK 2-2.

Nashville Predators


This is the most straightforward analysis out of the three matchups. And look, there are eight very good teams in the Western Conference this year. But if we are being honest, there are only six or seven who could arguably be considered contenders, and the Predators aren’t one of them.

Yes, they have Josi, who should be a nominee for the Norris, and Saros, who can always pop off at any time. But they don’t have the supporting cast or firepower to outplay the Canucks and their looser playstyle favours Vancouver.

Their hot streak earlier was great and got them a spot in the playoffs, but it wasn’t sustainable. Their recent 2-4-1 record, along with my previous points about their roster makes this decision an easy one for me. I vote for the Predators, U2 can’t save their season this time.


At a glance, this is absolutely the match-up the Canucks want. The Canucks have the best record against the Preds vs. the VGK or Kings and did so in a high-scoring fashion. That said, ever since the Predators were put on a timeout and told they couldn’t go to the U2 show, they have turned into an entirely different team. Since then, the Preds have gone 18-4-3 and have been the hottest team in the NHL playing at a .780 point percentage and collecting 39 points in 25 games. Since losing in Dallas and getting the concert taken away, the Predators collected points in 18 straight games.

On the flip side, since their streak ended, they have gone 2-4-1 in their seven appearances. Did the Preds peak too early? Or is this simply a speedbump and this team has found its groove? That is the question. If Nashville is falling back to earth, this is absolutely the match-up Canucks fans should root for, but if they win their last three games, the last thing you want is to play the Predators when they’re hot.


Straight up, hands down Nashville is the team that Vancouver wants in the first round of the playoffs. This is not a hot take, it is essentially just fact. Vancouver swept the season series against Nashville this year with a 13 – 6 goal differential after three games.

Granted it has been a while since these teams have faced off, as unlike the Kings, who the Canucks played all of their in-season match-ups with very recently, all of the Canucks games against the Preds this season took place in 2023. However, despite Nashville’s respectable record on the ice, on the personnel side of things, the only notable move that Nashville has made since facing the Canucks has been the deadline trade for Jason Zucker.

Zucker, the 32-year-old has only collected six points in 15 games with the Predators. I think that the Canucks should have no problem winning out over the team like they have all season.

Final Picks

Trent – Nashville Predators
Brayden – Nashville Predators
Reid – Nashville Predators

We thought we should also poll the fans on what they thought, and it seems they are right there with us. Nashville is the preferred matchup.

With every passing day, it looks more and more likely that the Canucks will wind up drawing Nashville, but it isn’t over until it’s over. The big game comes on Saturday night when the Oilers will play against Vancouver for the last time this season. A massive turning point in that game will be McDavid’s health. It remains to be seen how the final standings will shake out.