By: Brayden Fengler / March 25, 2023
The Vancouver Canucks have eight teams left to face and eleven games to play before they wrap up their 2022-23 NHL season (excluding their unrealistic yet still mathematically possible shot at the playoffs).
Vancouver currently sits 25th in the league. It’s bad news for those that want the Canucks to have a shot at quality draft picks – or one specific high-quality draft pick – as the team has recently been trending in the wrong direction.
The Canucks have won eight of their last ten games, and most have come against teams that are also “battling” for the best lottery odds. With the Canucks recent record and their light schedule ahead, if they haven’t fully shot their draft lottery chances in the foot just yet, they seem on pace to do just that by the time they reach the end of the season.
How will the Canucks fare against the teams that they have left to face, and how will their performances impact their lottery odds?
The Dallas Stars
The Canucks next appointment is with the Dallas Stars, a team that should in theory be leaving the Canucks in their durst, but yet the Canucks have won during both prior meetings that they’ve had with the club this season. Most recently, Vancouver blew the stars out of the water with a 5-2 win in mid-March. Just before that, the Canucks were able to grind out an OT win against the Texas team at the end of February.
The team that has been able to beat the Dallas Stars has been Rick Tocchet’s team through and through. This is not a case of the Canucks performing one way against the club early in the season under former coach Bruce, and then showcasing an improved performance under Rick.
No, Tocchet’s Canucks have very recently shown that they can beat this team. Even though the Stars sit first in the Central Division, I think it’s highly likely that the Canucks take their lunch for a final time this season.
The Chicago Blackhawks
The Canucks have two more dances with the Blackhawks this season. One on the road, immediately following their game against the Stars, and one at home for what will be their second to last home game of the season. Vancouver has only faced Chicago once so far this season, in a contest in late January that saw Vancouver deliver a healthy 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks, back before Patrick Kane was traded over to the red and blue.
Their last meeting saw two goals from Andrei Kuzmenko, and four assists split evenly between Elias Pettersson and Luke Schenn. That game was a team win, with points stretching deep down the Canucks lineup. Wins of that nature are repeatable against a team like the Blackhawks.
Unfourtatly for the Canucks lottery odds, the Hawks sit third to last in the league, and Vancouver seems destined to squander an opportunity to allow this team below them to gain 4 points, and hurt their own lottery odds. Now that Chicago is without Kane, I think the result of these two contests are all but written based on how confidently Vancouver handled this club not long ago.
The St. Louis Blues
After Vancouver’s first of two remaining meetings with Chicago the club will face off against the Blues on March 28th. This contest will be the last of a three-game road stretch, and even though it will come after an off day on Monday, on the preceding Saturday and Sunday, the Canucks will have played games on both nights, so Vancouver may be running empty by the time the clock strikes 5 pm PST to kick off their game against the Blues.
Both teams have earned a win after their two meetings this season, with the most recent W belonging to the Canucks, thanks to a 3-2 OT win in late February. Before that, the Blues fed Vancouver their lunch in a 5-1 victory before the end of the year in late December.
Given that Vancouver will be coming off of a road trip which sees them playing back-to-back weekend games, and the nature of Vancouver’s one and only narrow victory over the club, the odds for this one may be leaning in favour of St. Louis. This loss would be an important one for the Canucks as currently, the Blues sit just one place above them in league standings.
Vancouver may not be set up to lose against many teams below them in the standings, but the least they could do is lose against the one that, at this moment, only sits one point above them.
The Calgary Flames
Calgary is the second of three teams that the Canucks will be playing multiple games against before the season is over. Calgary will take the ice in Vancouver for both contests, first on March 31st and again on April 8th for the Canucks final home game. Calgary’s recent record is 5-3-2 in their last ten, and despite the five wins, overall the Flames have been losing their grip on a potential playoff spot.
Right now Calgary is on the outside looking in, sitting six points behind a Winnipeg team currently holding the last wild card spot in the West. The Canucks haven’t faced the Flames since New Year’s eve, in a game where despite the best efforts of a Canucks team that still featured Bo Horvat, Vancouver was handily outplayed.
Despite their recent struggles, this Calgary team is more well-rounded than the Canucks. They will be hungry to grind back into a playoff spot and I’m confident that Vancouver is not leaving either game with two points.
The LA Kings
The LA Kings currently sit second in the Pacific Division and seventh league-wide. This is a promising young team, exactly what the Canucks wish they were. Despite Vancouver envying their position in the standings, the Canucks have actually beaten the Kings in both previous meetings this season. Just last week the Canucks took the Kings to a shootout and won.
Additionally, in November, a much different Canucks team handily beat the Kings 4-1. Yet even with the Canucks perfect record against LA this season, I think it’s more likely that in at least one (if not both) of their last two meetings of the season, the superior Kings will finally come out on top.
The Canucks just narrowly took the win in their last meeting, and the Kings have been electric in recent games, winning eight of their last ten, most notably embarrassing the Calgary Flames in an 8-2 win that saw the struggling Alberta team fall apart against a potential playoff rival. L.A. is built to make an impact this year, and even if the extent of that impact will not have them repeating their 2014 club victory, it should have them finally beating the Canucks at least once this season.
These last two games against Vancouver are still going to matter to the Kings, they are only two points away from falling out of the top three in the Pacific, so two wins against an unbalanced Vancouver team will not be an opportunity that the Kings overlook at this stage in their season.
The Seattle Kraken
Oh, how the tables have turned. What was once a team that shared the basement with the Canucks just last year is now a team bound for the playoffs. They make it look so easy.
Seattle finally had their first-ever franchise win against Vancouver in late January in a handy 6-1 win over the floundering Canucks, and there is no reason to think that the team from Emerald City won’t keep their winning streak against the Canucks going on April 4th.
Vancouver has dealt key players and added new pieces since the last time these two teams went face-to-face. Meanwhile, Seattle remained conservative ahead of the trade deadline this year, only picking up Jaycob Megna from the Sharks. Seattle clearly likes what they are building and has dedicated time to cultivating consistency and chemistry within their team, something Vancouver has seen very little of this year.
This final contest between the two teams may very well be closer than the 6-1 blowout in their last meeting. But Seattle is hanging onto a playoff spot by a thread, so there is no doubt that they will be hungry to keep it, and may still be emboldened by their first and most recent victory against Vancouver.
The Anaheim Ducks
This final contest against their Pacific Division basement-dwelling neighbours may very well go the same route as I predict that their contests against the Chicago Blackhawks will go.
Like those games, this one will be a must-lose, giving the Canucks some final wiggle room to improve their lottery odds, if they can get closer to the Ducks in the standings by then. However, Vancouver has not allowed the Ducks to win a game against them at all this year, not in the three previous meetings that the two teams have had.
The Ducks are mastering the tank. They sit fourth last in the league and are on a three-game slide putting them only three points out of the absolute bottom of the league. The Ducks are very much the opposite of the Canucks right now.
Anaheim is a team that seems determined to lose. Most notably they shipped off John Klingberg at the deadline. Over the course of that trade and others, they have acquired six AHL prospects and three different draft picks. The Canucks on the other hand, are building up their team with players that are helping them win games now.
The Arizona Coyotes
To end the season, the Canucks will face off against the 27th-worst team in the league. The Canucks and the Coyotes may very well be right next to each other in the standings by the time this game takes place, right now both teams are only separated by the Philadelphia Flyers who sit at 26th in the league.
The Coyotes, like the Canucks, are trending up right now, having won 6 out of their last 10 games, much to the displeasure of their fans, I’m sure. Although this team is keeping pace with the Canucks, I would argue they are still the weaker team.
The Canucks have J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Andrei Kuzmenko. All serious contributors on a flawed team. The Yotes have Clayton Keller and a collage barn, that’s it. This final contest is likely to result on the Canucks winning their final game of the season.
Where Do The Canucks Finish
To summarize, my predictions for the Canucks’ last 11 games would result in the Canucks finishing down the stretch with five wins and 6 losses, with their point percentage remaining virtually unchanged. Currently, Vancouver’s point percentage sits at .486% and if all other bottom-dwelling teams remain business as usual for the rest of the season, Vancouver is not likely to move positions in the standings.
This puts Vancouver’s hopes for a Bedard sweepstakes win firmly in the hands of the rest of the teams that are right there with them at the bottom of the league. They need to start winning because Vancouver refuses to lose.