To make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks have to run the table.
After Thursday’s emphatic 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes, the Vancouver Canucks have 10 games left on the season.
They have 78 points.
Even after winning a game they had to win — the Coyotes are terrible — on the back of a surprising Wednesday win over Vegas, it was the first time they’d ever won in regulation in Sin City.
If they win all their remaining games, they would have 98 points.
The Dallas Stars, who are currently in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference and still the favourite to finish in that spot, have 84 points and 12 games left. The Canucks have one more regulation win than the Stars, so the Stars need to finish ahead of the Canucks on points. But seven wins a tie in 12 games is hardly unlikely for them, given they’ve won the equivalent of seven out of every 12 games they’ve played this season.
They remain in the drivers’ seat.
And that’s without getting into the Vegas Golden Knights, who also have only 10 games left but also are on 82 points, much closer to the Stars than the Canucks are.
On this night the Canucks out-classed the Coyotes. Just like on Wednesday in Las Vegas, they didn’t give much away defensively, making for an easy night for goalie Jaroslav Halák.
The Canucks were led by two goals from the captain, two from power-play specialist Alex Chiasson and a single for Elias Pettersson. Nick Schmaltz scored the lone goal for the Coyotes.
Here’s what we learned…
Horvat now has 30 goals.
His two tallies in the second period were his 15th and 16th goals in his last 21 games, an impressive run.
“Getting all the right bounces and trying to finish the best I can and thankfully they’ve been all going in for me,” Horvat said.
“I am playing with confidence and definitely feel good with the puck.”
San Jose Sharks vs. Vancouver Canucks
7 p.m., Rogers Arena. TV: Sportsnet. Radio: Sportsnet 650.
He’s the 31st player in team history to hit 30 goals. The last to hit 30 goals was Radim Vrbata, who scored 31 goals in 2014-15.
J.T. Miller has 29 goals this season, while Pettersson has 25 after scoring on a 2-on-0 in the second period.
In early February, a Twitter account that has for years posted aggressive and offensive comments about the Canucks’ captain spewed more nonsense.
Horvat saw the tweets and “liked” them, clearly as motivation to prove this person wrong.
Since then, he’s played 26 games and recorded 26 points.
And at the faceoff dot, he was astounding.
He was 17-for-17, setting a team record for wins. Since faceoff wins were first tracked in 1997-98, he’s the fourth Canuck to win all his faceoffs in a game, after J.T. Miller in November, Brandon Sutter in 2016 and Byron Ritchie in 2008.
Two nights in a row Elias Pettersson has pulled of inch-perfect passes.
Wednesday in Las Vegas he fired a backhand pass to Tanner Pearson to set up a goal.
And on Thursday he fired a first-period pass across the top of the crease to Chiasson, who was in position to pot his eighth of the season. Chiasson’s third-period goal was a tip of an Oliver Ekman-Larsson point shot.
Since the beginning of February, Pettersson has been playing at a 100-point pace.
Gettin’ it right
The Coyotes looked to have made the score 3-2 midway through the second after Halák failed to corral the puck in the crease, but the Canucks challenged the goal for offside.
It didn’t take the officials long to see what Canucks’ video coach Darryl Seward would have spotted, that Nick Ritchie was offside on the zone entry.
The Canucks are now 7-for-8 on the season in coaches’ challenges.
It was an emotional evening for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, playing in the arena where he broke into the NHL.
The visitors’ dressing room is used during training camp as an overflow room, for rookies, prospects and non-roster players. During his morning media session, the former Coyotes captain noted it was the first time he’d been in that room in a dozen years.
That was one of a few strange feelings he knew would fill the day.
“I don’t know how I’m going to react stepping out on that ice to be honest with you,” he said. “There’s going to be some smiles and maybe some tears.”
The Coyotes played a tribute video during the first TV timeout and the fans rose to their feet in recognition of their former star.
Ekman-Larsson waved to the crowd to acknowledge their salute.
Coyotes are one of the league’s worst teams and were still missing a trio of key players.
Leading scorer Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, third in goals scored on the team, and top defenceman Jakob Chychrun were all out because of injury.
Hard to compete when you’re starting even further behind than normal.
More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the Vancouver Sun or The Province.