In an extremely tight playoff race, the Canucks have managed to find themselves atop the Pacific division with a very unsettling three point lead. The young Canadian team finds themselves with 65 points, followed closely by the Oilers, Knights, Flames, and Coyotes who are all within 5 points of the Canucks. With five teams battling to win the Pacific division, none of these teams can afford to lose ground. Recently, Vancouver has found themselves giving up points in very important games. They were shutout last night by Boston, who dominated nearly every second of the game. Despite Markstrom's great performance, the team could not find a way to sustain any pressure. Prior to this, the Canucks gave up a one-goal lead to the Hurricanes in the last minute of the game, ultimately leading to a shootout loss.
Before this stretch, the Canucks were on a pretty good streak, collecting points regularly. However, the team has a hand full of injuries which leaves the options limited if the roster needs a shake up. Injuries to Ferland, Leivo and Motte make life difficult for Travis Green, who struggles to find consistency with their bottom six. Roussel has proven to be more of a liability than an asset and Gaudette has not found the same success he had earlier in the year.
Luckily for Vancouver, the core of the team is intact and the goaltending has been strong. The one imminent threat appears to be the Oilers, as they have a 7-2-1 record in their previous ten games, and sit 3 points behind Vancouver. The Coyotes and Knights only managed to post 2 and 3 wins respectively in the same 10 game period. The Flames are in a similar situation as they recently lost Mark Giordano, who will have an MRI today. With all these question marks facing Pacific division teams, the Canucks and Oilers are poised to battle it out for the top spot over the next coming weeks. The Flames will likely surge, given their easy schedule coming up, but there is no question that a long-term injury to Giordano will seriously impact the Flames ability to succeed.
One major story line for all Pacific division fans revolves around potential deadline moves. Names like Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Dillion, and Chris Kreider have been swirling around some of the Pacific division teams, but nothing substantial has been rumoured. In all likelihood, there won't be much movement in the division, seeing as many teams are limited by their salary cap situation or their lack of top draft picks.
As far as Jim Benning and the Canucks go, there is really no need for a trade. They already spent their first round pick acquiring J.T. Miller and are pressed right up against the cap. The only thing Benning can do is try to unload a player like Antoine Roussel. It may not be helpful for this season, but the team simply has no cap space and Roussel has proven incredibly unreliable in his limited minutes. If Ferland can find a way back into the lineup after his injury, I don't see Roussel sticking around on the NHL roster. Moving him now might prevent cap issues moving forward and potentially give the team a late round draft pick in the upcoming draft.