"They're starting to believe": Boudreau says Canucks can make playoff push

Mar 6 2022, 9:10 pm

When Bruce Boudreau took over the head coaching gig for the Canucks back in December, many pointed to his midseason takeover of the 2007-08 Washington Capitals as a blueprint for his potential success in Vancouver.

The Capitals went from three straight seasons outside of the playoffs to a 37-17-4 record under Boudreau, winning the NHL’s since-defunct Southeast Division.

After a 6-4 win Saturday night over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boudreau-led Canucks are sitting just three points out of the final Western Conference wildcard postseason spot.

“They’re starting to believe in themselves,” Boudreau said postgame. “When you have belief, anything can happen.”

Boudreau and his Canucks are still a longshot to make the playoffs, and are currently 10th in the Western Conference by points percentage. They’re within five points of all of Minnesota, Dallas, Vegas, and Edmonton, but at 57 games played, have fewer games left than everyone else in the Western Conference.

“I think everybody knew that this was an important game because we don’t play for three days,” Boudreau said of Saturday’s win. “Every day you don’t play, the teams are gaining points. So it was important to get this one.”

MoneyPuck.com has the odds of Vancouver advancing to the postseason at just 23.4%, while The Athletic (via Dom Luszczyszyn) has them at just 15%.

But somewhere between a 1-in-4 to 1-in-6 chance is still a much brighter outcome than the 8-15-2 record they sported this year under Travis Green. Boudreau, in contrast, has gone 20-8-4.

Oddly, Boudreau compared his roster to another NHL team, the 2011 Bruins, who toppled Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final.

“That’s who I want to make — if I get the opportunity — to make teams like,” Boudreau said. “You use your fourth line a lot, they can play in both ends of the ice and when they’re contributing offensively, it’s a big plus for us.”

Interesting choice of words aside, the Canucks have already begun treating each game like it is a postseason match.

“Every game is like a do or die for us,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller said Saturday. “I love it.”

Seven games sit between today and the March 21 trade deadline for the Canucks, all of which will be played at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.

Names like Miller have been mixed in with trade rumours over the past several months, with his 22 goals and 41 assists leading the Canucks in scoring.

It’s hard to say whether or not the Canucks’ performance over the homestand will dictate the team’s deadline strategy.

Conventional wisdom would say that it would, but of the many mistakes former Canucks general manager Jim Benning made while in charge of the team, most were aligned with trusting a short sample size and expecting it to reflect long-term results. Would a win here or there really change Vancouver’s long-term ambitions?

General manager Patrik Allvin (along with president Jim Rutherford) has the unenviable job of figuring out whether the team should make any additions in order to give the team a better chance at the postseason, or cashing in trade chips like Miller in order to help the team long-term.

The positives of a postseason run are obvious: fan and player morale, a bump in team revenue, and invaluable playoff experience for the team’s young core.

On the flip side, there’s perhaps no worse place to be as a pro sports franchise than a team stuck missing the playoffs by just a few points, which from a pure odds standpoint, is about where the Canucks are set to end up.

There will be no shortage of offers available to Allvin and his staff, but the allure of the first playoff games at Rogers Arena in seven years could also be a factor in the Canucks’ decisions. At the very least, the next 15 days are set up to have massive implications for what the future of the Canucks will look like.

Both Dallas and Nashville, currently occupying the two wildcard spots, are on pace for 98 points. If that mark holds up, the Canucks would need 36 points over their next 25 games to match it, an 118-point pace over 82 games.

Vancouver will need to be nearly perfect to make the postseason, with those 25 games scheduled over just. But it’s not impossible, and the Canucks themselves don’t see it as such.

Buckle up, folks. We’re in for one heck of a ride.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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