The Vancouver Canucks have been one of the better stories in the NHL this season, as the upstart squad from British Columbia is holding on to a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference. Against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night, reality set in as the team was routed 4-0 by the reigning champs and managed only 19 shots against a stingy Kings defense that appears ready for the playoffs.
I can’t reiterate how much I respect what the Canucks have done this season after a tumultuous last 18 months and feel head coach Willie Desjardins should be in the Jack Adams discussion for what he has gotten from this team. Any coach who can make a team more than the sum of its parts like Desjardins should be commended greatly. Having said that, there is a colossal difference between being a good regular season success and delivering in the playoffs, and that divide was on full display on Thursday night.
Naturally this tilt was not a playoff game, but for all intents and purposes it might as well have been. The Kings are scratching and clawing to get back to the playoffs and every game down the stretch is huge, especially against Pacific Division competition. Likewise for the Canucks, the opportunity to show their legitimacy as contenders against the reigning champions made the atmosphere more than just one of 82 regular season games.
Both teams have work to do between now and the start of the playoffs as neither team — especially the Kings — is guaranteed a thing right now. Having said that, I fully expect both of these teams to make the playoffs and a first-round matchup is a very real possibility. The Canucks will have to be ready for the Kings if that potential series becomes reality, as such a paltry effort will make them cannon fodder for a team that lives for the stage that is the Stanley Cup playoffs every year.