After the Colorado Avalanche knocked off the Arizona Coyotes in the shootout Friday, the Vancouver Canucks saw their playoff hopes come to an end. The victory for the Avalanche put them firmly in the second wild card spot and mathematically eliminated Vancouver from the running.
Even if the Canucks win their final four games of the season, the most they can finish with is 84 points. The Avalanche have 85 points thanks to the 3-2 win over the desert dogs.
The Canucks will suit up Saturday against the Dallas Stars, but you have to imagine the wind has gone out of the sails. For Vancouver, it’s been a mixed bag of a season even though it’s hard to call it a loss entirely. In some ways, this is a team that exceeded expectations.
But it’s also the fourth consecutive season the Canucks have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Early on, Vancouver posted a 10-6-1 record and seemed to storm out of the box. They were above .500 for long stretches of the season, no small feat for a team in the midst of a rebuild.
The Canucks avoided the drama of other rebooting teams, too. They didn’t go the Ottawa route and implode and there’s a lot of promise in the roster. The arrival of Quinn Hughes, the seventh pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, was every bit as incredible as it was supposed to be and the play of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat has been wonderful.
And then there’s the Canucks’ MVP, goalie Jacob Markstrom.
The 29-year-old was often the reason Vancouver looked challenging on most nights. He made saves he had no business making and made it all look easy, projecting calm and focus from the net when things could’ve toppled. Markstrom, to the surprise of no one, is the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. To date, a Canuck has never won the award.
Speaking of awards, Pettersson’s case for the Calder Trophy is strong. The latent rookie of the year has 65 points in 67 games and has already drawn the focus of most of the league. He’s got a target on his back when he plays and he almost always creates something in the offensive zone.
So while Vancouver’s season is essentially over and another year has come and gone without a playoff berth, it’s hard to feel all that disappointed. The Canucks have so much promise on the horizon that this discontent can easily transform into a learning experience. And with the passage of another year and another missed opportunity, that feeling can drive young players to the next level in a hurry.
(Photo credit: NHL)