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After missing two extra weeks because of their COVID-19 outbreak, you would think the Vancouver Canucks’ playoff hopes would be done and dusted.
, the Canucks’ chances of qualifying for the post-season are up to 11 per cent, after hovering around six per cent for weeks. And the math isn’t all that crazy anymore, HockeyViz’s Micah Blake McCurdy said.
“As faint hopes go, Vancouver’s not in the worst shape,” he said. “Twenty-five points from their final 18 (games) make them odds-on. Wilder things have happened. Shame they don’t have any more games against Montreal. Five against the Oilers, though.”
The simple story is the Montreal Canadiens haven’t been playing well. At the beginning of April, the Habs were six points up on the Canucks and held four games in hand on Vancouver.
But as the Canucks battled COVID-19, the Habs have wasted time. They’re 10 points up on the Canucks in the standings, a solid lead, but the Canucks now hold five games in hand on the Canadiens.
So, never say never.
That said, the Canucks’ brutal schedule to close the season could very well be their undoing.
The players and coaches, though, know one thing: keep winning, and they’ll gain more and more control over their destiny.
Yes, they kept watching the games, Canucks coach Travis Green said.
“It’s that time of year, there’s a lot of talk about (the standings), it’s hard not to pay attention to it,” he said. “We’re all fans of the game, we all watch the highlights, we all watch the sport channels. It’s also our jobs.”
That they pulled off a win over Toronto on Sunday, with everything seemingly stacked against them, meant a lot to their team spirit, forward Jimmy Vesey said: “I think it definitely reinforces the belief we have in our locker-room.”
If ever there were a moment where the clichés had to actually be true, it’s now. Control what you can control. They still need to win five more games than the Canadiens from here on out. Montreal has just 13 games left, but to get to 62 points, which has been the low bar for playoff qualification for most of the season, the Habs need 15 points or 7 1/2 wins.
The Canucks have 18 games left, but with just 37 points to date, need 25 points out of their remaining schedule. They would need to post points at a 0.694-point percentage, well above the 0.489 they have posted to date — and that was before they missed three weeks of play while suffering through a difficult respiratory illness.
They really can’t get ahead of themselves.
“We just got to put our heads down and take it one game at a time. Obviously there’s other games in our division that are going to have an impact on our position,” Vesey said. “The odds might be stacked against us but we’ve got to put our heads down. This is the situation we’ve been dealt.”
Almost back to full strength
With games coming fast and furious, and his players recovering from COVID-19, Green is likely to need as many players as he can get.
There are no players left in COVID-19 protocol — Madison Bowey clears his first week of quarantine Wednesday — but Tyler Motte remains out of the lineup from the after-effects of his illness.
Thatcher Demko skated with his mates Tuesday, but when he’ll be healthy enough to actually start a game doesn’t seem imminent.
Alex Edler spoke to the media about kneeing Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman on Sunday, which has left Hyman with a sprained MCL and Edler with a two-game suspension.
“I feel awful for him and I’m hoping he recovers fast and gets back quick,” he said.
The ugly collision came at the end of a three-minute shift, but Edler refused to cite fatigue as an excuse. He didn’t react quick enough, he said: “I’m not using that as an excuse for anything. I’m trying to step up and make a clean hit and when he cuts to the middle I don’t have time to get my leg out of it.”