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Canucks will face the Predators in first round of the playoffs

A shootout win by the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night determined the Vancouver Canucks' first-round match-up in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks battles Luke Evangelista of the Nashville Predators.

The winner of the Western Conference was decided on Wednesday night and, with it, the Vancouver Canucks' opponent in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Dallas Stars needed just a single point to secure first in the West, preventing the Canucks from potentially tying them in points in their final game of the regular season. A tie would have seen the Canucks move into first as they have the edge in regulation wins, which is the first tie-breaker.

The Stars were facing the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night, who had already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Blues still had pride on the line, however, and put up a stalwart effort. The Blues took a 1-0 lead in the second period on a goal from Robert Thomas, but the Stars responded in the third with a goal from Mason Marchment.

With no further scoring in regulation, the Stars ensured at least one point by taking the game to overtime. The Stars then added another superfluous point by winning the game in the shootout.

That means the Canucks will finish second in the Western Conference behind the Stars no matter the result of their game on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets. Accordingly, they'll face the team in the first Wild Card spot in the first round of the playoffs: the Nashville Predators.

On paper, it seems like the ideal match-up for the Canucks, as they swept their three-game series against the Predators this season, out-scoring them 13-to-6. They certainly seem like a better match-up than the Los Angeles Kings, who won three of their four meetings with the Canucks, or the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, who split their four games with the Canucks and will be getting Mark Stone back for the playoffs.

The Predators won't be an easy out, however. Since their last meeting with the Canucks in December, the Predators have caught fire. They went on an 18-game point streak from mid-February to late March, going 15-0-3 in that span. They're a dangerous team with a Norris-candidate defenceman in Roman Josi, great forward depth, strong goaltending, and solid underlying numbers.

Of course, so are the Canucks, only more so.

They don't just have a Norris-candidate defenceman; they have the likely Norris winner in Quinn Hughes. They don't just have great forward depth; they have better top-end talent than the Predators as well as the likes of Conor Garland, Elias Lindholm, and Dakota Joshua on the third line. They don't just have strong goaltending; they have Thatcher Demko. 

As for underlying numbers, well...

Okay, the Canucks and Predators are nearly identical by the underlying numbers. Eerily similar, really. 

The one thing the Canucks have done distinctly better than the Predators is actually score on the chances they create. And prevent the opposing team from scoring on the chances they create. So, two things, really. Pretty important things, as things go.

The schedule for the Canucks' first round has yet to be released, though it's expected to begin on Sunday, April 21 as opposed to Tuesday, April 23, as was initially expected