The Vancouver Canucks were hoping to still be in the playoff hunt when they hosted the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
That wish vanished when the Dallas Stars went to overtime against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, ensuring the Stars would earn at least a point. That officially eliminated the Canucks from playoff contention for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
Vancouver is hoping to end its rollercoaster season on a high note, however.
While the Stars didn’t do the Canucks any favors against the Golden Knights, their eventual shootout win clinched a playoff berth for Los Angeles, its first since the 2017-18 season. The Kings boast a five-game winning streak and clinched third place in the Pacific Division.
The Canucks beat the Seattle Kraken 5-2 on Tuesday to end a three-game losing streak. After hosting the Kings, Vancouver is scheduled to finish its season on Friday at the Edmonton Oilers, another team that’s bound for the playoffs.
“We want to win our last three games and take some solace from that, but I never want it to happen again,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Canucks (39-30-11, 89 points) were 8-15-2 when coach Travis Green was fired and Boudreau took over on Dec. 5.
Vancouver grabbed the league’s attention by winning its first seven games under Boudreau.
The Canucks continued to climb the standings and remained in serious playoff contention right up until the three-game losing streak last week.
“We pushed to win from Day 1,” Boudreau said. “If there’s anything I like about it, it’s to change the culture, in that winning is the only thing that matters. That’s something I preached every day since the day I got here, and hopefully, it sunk in.”
The Kings (44-27-10, 98 points) were in Seattle when they learned they clinched a playoff spot, preparing to play the Kraken on Wednesday night in their second-to-last game of the regular season.
The Kings rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Kraken, 5-3.
“We were all excited, but at the same time, we were ready for (the game against Seattle),” Kings forward Phillip Danault said of qualifying for the playoffs. “Our destiny was in our hands, but it was definitely special and, obviously, you want to clinch as early as possible.”
The Kings will head into their final game of the regular season still trying to fill the void of defenseman Drew Doughty, the former Norris Trophy winner who had season-ending wrist surgery earlier this month.
Doughty is still contributing in subtle ways, however.
“Early on in the season, every single night, being able to watch him and learn from him was huge,” Kings defenseman Sean Durzi said. “I try to do things in my game now that I’ve seen him do, so it’s pretty cool to notice that. He’s still a huge part of our team now, just talking to him, having that experience, it makes it a lot easier for us.”
The Canucks also have a strong new crop of young players to build around.
Elias Pettersson, who has a career-high 32 goals this season, is just 23 years old, and defenseman Quinn Hughes, who is tied for second on the team in points with Pettersson (66), is just 22.
“I love working with young guys because they’re way more responsive than older guys, who are more set in their ways,” Boudreau said. “You have to massage them a bit.”
–Field Level Media