Playoff bubble watch — Canucks edition

6 Comments

This may be the last week we can do a bubble watch for the Canucks, so let’s get it in while there’s still a mathematical possibility of Vancouver making the playoffs.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Canucks have a 2.0 percent chance of making the postseason. But…BUT…if they win all 10 of their remaining games, that probability leaps all the way to 87.0 percent.

OK, so it’s very, very unlikely that Vancouver gets in. Basically, the Canucks need to be almost perfect — and there hasn’t been a whole lot to suggest they’re capable of being that — and/or hope that both Dallas and Phoenix choke.

source:  Safe to say, once this season’s hope has been officially extinguished, there are going to be some big decisions for this club to make. And it will start with general manager Mike Gillis. Because whoever is making the personnel decisions — be it Gillis or a new general manager — will have to decide whether to keep John Tortorella behind the bench, and then whether to trade the likes of Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler, or anyone else that can help the team “get younger, faster and stronger.”

Vancouver last missed the playoffs in 2008. Since then, the Canucks have enjoyed their finest stretch of play since the franchise entered the NHL in 1970. Two times they won the Presidents’ Trophy. They had a trip all the way Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. A Hart Trophy and Art Ross for Henrik Sedin. Another Art Ross for Daniel Sedin. A Selke for Kesler.

Is it the end of an era? Or, can an offseason retooling — as opposed to a full rebuild — bring Vancouver back into contention?

At the very least, Canucks fans have reason to keep watching in young Nicklas Jensen, the 2011 first-round pick who’s scored three times since being called up from the AHL earlier this month.

“I think it’s great for the organization, not just for the team now, but for the future to see guys coming in and pushing for spots,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s when you have young guys pushing for spots from below and that’s something we haven’t had for … 10 years.”

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

2 Comments

Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

Getty
Leave a comment

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

Getty
Leave a comment

Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

Getty
2 Comments

The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.