Playoff run reveals team’s bright future
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The Vancouver Canucks were playing in the second round of the NHL playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights. The series will have ended by the time this article is published. The NHL playoffs have looked vastly different due to COVID-19.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, league governors, and the NHL Players’ Association organized and agreed to play a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament in two hub cities (Edmonton and Toronto). The playoffs now have four teams remaining.
The Vancouver Canucks in the play-in qualifying round defeated the Minnesota Wild three games to one (best of five series). The Canucks would then meet the St. Louis Blues in the first round. The defending Stanley Cup champions just could not find their stride as the Canucks defeated the Blues four games to two (best of seven series). It was the Canucks’ first playoff series victory since May 2011 when they defeated the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final in five games. The Canucks’ next opponent in the second round was the Vegas Golden Knights.
During the series, at times Vegas showed why they are the better team. They out-skated, out-hustled, and out-muscled the Canucks led by enforcer Ryan Reaves. Vegas has balanced scoring with snipers: William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault. Also, Vegas has a ferocious forecheck, giving Canuck defensemen little time to control the puck and get it out of their own zone.
Notably, Vegas’ playoff win record is astounding. Since entering the league in 2017 (it should be noted these stats are prior to the start of game six between the Canucks and Vegas), the Golden Knights have won 27 playoff games. While the Canucks have won only 11 playoff games dating back to 2015—the last time they were in the postseason.
Above all, the Canucks’ future looks very promising: the team has shown improvement over the past several years. Canuck General Manager, Jim Benning, has made some notable acquisitions (via draft picks and trades) to improve the team. Benning added more scoring to the roster by acquiring Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings. In exchange for Toffoli, the Kings received players Tyler Madden, Tim Schaller, a 2020 second-round pick as well as a 2022 conditional pick.
The Canucks have a strong foundation with a solid youth core that will have the team competitive for several years. Players such as forwards Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Elias Pettersson represent that. Other notable players who have contributed have been J.T. Miller, Jake Virtanen (from Abbotsford), and Adam Gaudette. Also, the blue line is solid with veterans: Alex Edler; Chris Tanev; and Richmond native, Troy Stecher. Rookie defenseman, Quinn Hughes, has delighted Canuck fans with his speed, skill, and finesse.
In addition, the Canucks have shown to have more depth with their third and fourth lines. Particularly, forward Tyler Motte has been a positive with his recent play—especially during the first round against the St. Louis Blues. As well, goalie Jacob Markstrom has proven to be a legitimate number one starter for the Canucks with backup goalie Thatcher Demko, providing solid goaltending when needed.
Paul Chapman, Deputy Editor with The Province says the Canucks’ playoff experience in 2020 will benefit the team in the future. “This experience has been invaluable to the Canucks,” Chapman said in an email interview with the Other Press. “They will plead ad nauseum that they’re there to win and not gain experience. But the process of playing teams bigger, faster and deeper than them, fighting back, grinding out wins by any means possible provides a roadmap to success that teams like the Oilers and Flames haven’t been able to find thus far despite their plethora of young talent,” he said.
For the first time since 2011, Canuck fans can be optimistic as the team’s future looks very bright. If the Canucks one day make another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, let’s hope the city behaves itself this time.