There are just 11 days remaining in the NHL regular season and as far as postseason races go, the current ones drawing to their conclusions in both the Eastern and Western Conferences are about as tight as they come. There are 11 spots yet to be decided for the annual playoff derby, but what's most noteworthy is that in the West a grand total of one -- yes, one -- berth has been clinched.
One has to wonder if Vancouver feels lonely.
The Canucks have been running away with the West's best record for most of the season, and have already clinched the conference's top seed, but not only does Vancouver have no idea who it will play in the first round, it has no idea who anyone else in the field is going to be. The Canucks might get some company tonight at long last, as San Jose can
clinch a spot with a regulation win over Dallas, but that it has taken this long for multiple teams to seal up a playoff berth is a testamant to what has been an historically tight race.
This is the latest in a season that just one berth in a conference has been clinched since the NHL went to its current playoff format in 1993-94. This is not to say that berths are taking this long to be filled because they aren't deserved. It's quite the opposite, in fact. There is a very real possibility that one or two teams in the West, including the defending Stanley Cup champs, might not make it past April 10 despite being more than deserving of a spot.
Perhaps even more remarkably, there's a chance that Detroit, which is currently second in the conference, might not make it to the playoffs despite already having a whopping 98 points this season.
With only five points separating fourth place from eighth place in the West, there's still plenty to be decided, but Vancouver should be getting plenty of new guests at the party as different teams start to punch their tickets on an almost daily basis from here on out -- potentially starting with the Sharks tonight. Of course, the Canucks do have one more hill yet to climb. With a win tonight and a loss by Philadelphia in regulation, Vancouver would claim its first ever Presidents' Trophy.
Surely that's not the hardware the Canucks are ultimately after, but it would mean that however long they play this Spring, the party will be in their house. Considering their League-best 25 wins at Rogers Arena, that's not a bad start.
He's only 17 but he can see the ice so well and he moves the puck and goes to the open ice all the time, so I just think he's a player that is ready to play in the NHL. I'm really looking forward to coaching someone like this.
— U.S. National Junior Team coach Ron Wilson on Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft