Canucks count down to the playoffs

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks' Derek Dorsett (51) and Arizona Coyotes' John Moore, left, battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.
 

Vancouver Canucks' Derek Dorsett (51) and Arizona Coyotes' John Moore, left, battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.

Photograph by: Ross D. Franklin, AP

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With 10 games remaining, the countdown to the playoffs is on for the Vancouver Canucks.

And barring a collapse of epic proportions, the Canucks should be cleared for liftoff to the NHL’s post-season party after being spectators last season.

On paper, Vancouver’s remaining schedule is not overly taxing. The Canucks play six of their remaining 10 games at home and five of their contests are against teams currently under the playoff bar.

They’ll also face some tired teams as their next three opponents — Winnipeg, Colorado and Dallas — all play the night before in Edmonton.

The schedule is not without its challenges, however. There’s a tough, four-game road trip looming that includes stops in St. Louis, Nashville (on a back-to-back), Chicago and Winnipeg.

But remember, the Canucks own one of the best road records in the NHL and have actually earned more points on the road than they have at Rogers Arena this season.

Heading into Sunday night’s game in Arizona, the Canucks were 12-9-1 this season against their remaining nine opponents (they face the Jets twice).

Below is a game-by-game look at their remaining schedule and our predictions.

Tuesday, March 24: vs. Jets

  • Season series: 1-0-0.
  • Recap: Defenceman Luca Sbisa scored the overtime winner when the Canucks won 3-2 in a highly entertaining game Feb. 3 at Rogers Arena. The Canucks came from behind twice in that game and were pounded by the Jets, who outhit them 31-12.
  • Opponent to watch: Winger Blake Wheeler has been on a tear. He has 12 points in his last nine games.
  • Who’ll win: Jets play the night before in Edmonton, but will be in full desperation mode as they attempt to hang onto a wild-card spot. Winnipeg wins in a shootout.
  • Thursday, March 26: vs. Avalanche

  • Season series: 1-1-0.
  • Recap: Colorado beat the Canucks 7-3 on Oct. 24 in Denver, but the Canucks got two goals from Nick Bonino in a 5-2 win Nov. 4 at Rogers Arena.
  • Opponent to watch: Ageless wonder Jarome Iginla leads the Avs with 24 goals and 50 points.
  • Who’ll win: Colorado has quietly been one of the NHL’s hottest teams of late, going 7-2-1 in its last 10 games. But Vancouver will put an end to the Avs’ faint playoff hopes with a win in this one.
  • Saturday, March 28: vs. Stars

  • Season series: 0-2-0
  • Recap: The Canucks trailed 5-0 a minute into the second period and were thumped 6-3 on Oct. 21 in Dallas. The Stars got a 27-save shutout from Kari Lehtonen in a 2-0 win in Vancouver on Dec. 17.
  • Opponent to watch: Yes, he shut out the Canucks once this season, but Lehtonen has been more cold than hot playing behind a porous Dallas D.
  • Who’ll win: The Stars have actually beat Vancouver in six straight games. That streak ends here as Canucks close out a three-game homestand with a win.
  • Monday, March 30: at Blues

  • Season series: 2-0-0
  • Recap: The Canucks won 4-1 in St. Louis on Oct. 23 and blew a three-goal third-period lead before winning 6-5 in a shootout on March 1 at Rogers Arena. Vancouver has now won five straight games against the Blues and has gained at least a point in eight straight contests.
  • Opponent to watch: Winger Vladimir Tarasenko has blossomed into one of the game’s elite young stars. He leads the Blues with 35 goals and 70 points and is a plus-29 this season.
  • Who’ll win: Vancouver’s recent mastery of the Blues ends here as St. Louis earns two points as it battles for top spot in the Central Division.
  • Tuesday, March 31: at Predators

  • Season series: 0-2-0
  • Recap: The Canucks have managed only two goals in a pair losses to the Predators this season. Defenceman Alex Edler scored them both. Vancouver dropped a 3-1 decision at home on Nov. 2 and lost 5-1 in Music City on Jan. 13.
  • Opponent to watch: Goalie Pekka Rinne is having another marvellous season. What else is new?
  • Who’ll win: This is the second game of a back to back for the Canucks, who have made a habit of winning some games when you least expect it. This is one of those games. Vancouver in OT.
  • Thursday, April 2: at Chicago

  • Season series: 2-0-0
  • Recap: Jannik Hansen had a hat trick in Vancouver’s 4-1 win at Rogers Arena on Nov. 23. Daniel Sedin had two goals, including the overtime winner, in a 5-4 win at the United Center on Feb. 11.
  • Opponent to watch: Captain Jonathan Toews hates the Canucks and always plays well against them.
  • Who’ll win: The Hawks haven’t missed a beat since losing Patrick Kane to injury. They win this one in regulation.
  • Saturday, April 4: at Winnipeg

  • Season series: 1-0-0
  • Recap: See above
  • Opponent to watch: Dustin Byfuglien should be back from injury. And that means he’ll be crashing the Canucks’ crease.
  • Who’ll win: The Jets, coming off three full days of rest, will beat a tired Canucks team.
  • Monday, April 6: vs. Kings

  • Season series: 1-3-0
  • Recap: After three straight defeats, in which they were outscored 12-3, the Canucks got one of their biggest wins of the season Saturday when they beat the Kings 4-1.
  • Opponent to watch: Goalie Jonathan Quick will be looking to hack a few Canuck ankles after captain Henrik Sedin ran him over on Saturday.
  • Who’ll win: If the Kings are not already out of it, this will be a must-win game for them. L.A. wins in OT.
  • Thursday, April 9: vs. Coyotes

  • Season series: 1-1-1 (before Sunday night’s game)
  • Recap: The Canucks dropped a 5-0 decision at home on Nov. 14, but got two goals from Alex Burrows in a 7-1 win at Rogers Arena on Dec. 22. The Coyotes won 3-2 in a shootout on March 5 in Glendale.
  • Opponent to watch: The only way the Coyotes win is if goalie Mike Smith stands on his head.
  • Who’ll win: The Canucks cruise to an easy victory.
  • Saturday, April 11: vs. Oilers

  • Season series: 4-0-0
  • Recap: These teams met four time in the first month of the season. The Canucks won 5-4 in a shootout in their home-opener on Oct. 11 and then won by scores of 2-0, 3-2 and 5-4 in Edmonton. Winger Radim Vrbata scored four goals, three of them on the power play, in those four games.
  • Opponent to watch: Ben Scrivens. Can’t imagine he’ll be back as Oilers’ No. 1 goalie next season.
  • Who’ll win: The Canucks will have clinched a playoff spot before this game and may rest some bodies. They’ll still beat the Oilers.
  • bziemer@vancouversun.com

    twitter.com/bradziemer

     
     
     
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    Vancouver Canucks' Derek Dorsett (51) and Arizona Coyotes' John Moore, left, battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.
     

    Vancouver Canucks' Derek Dorsett (51) and Arizona Coyotes' John Moore, left, battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.

    Photograph by: Ross D. Franklin, AP

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
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