Vancouver Canucks clinch Pacific Division title ahead of playoffs

The Vancouver Canucks have won their division for the first time in more than a decade.

And while they have higher ambitions for the post-season, the players know the feat is a major one.

“It’s cool,” said forward J.T. Miller. “A couple years ago here, it felt like time was sitting still for the team. Lots of turnover, lots of new faces from up top to here (in the locker room). Right now it feels good.

“We have a lot of reasons to be proud right now about how far we’ve come. And I feel like in a short amount of time.”

The Canucks (50-22-9) clinched the title Tuesday when they defeated the visiting Calgary Flames 4-1.

It’s the first time Vancouver has finished atop its division since 2013 when the team went 48-26-15 to finish first in the Northwest.

The club hit another milestone Tuesday, becoming the third team in franchise history to win 50 games in a season.

“It’s a hell of a feat going into training camp and working every day for this,” said head coach Rick Tocchet.

“It’s a resilient group, bouncing back after some tough losses or whatever, we had some good winning streaks. So we had to win the game tonight, which we did, so you gotta give the guys credit.”

The Canucks are still chasing the Stars for the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference, but need a win over the Jets on Thursday and a Dallas loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday to capture the title.

Vancouver could face the Nashville Predators, Vegas Golden Knights or L.A. Kings in the first round.

This iteration of the Canucks is in a much different position than recent years.

The team is preparing for its first playoff appearance since 2020 and will host post-season games for the first time since 2015.

“I think if someone told us where we would be this time last year in the summer, obviously we’d take it,” said captain Quinn Hughes. “It’s different when you’re building something every day and you’re living it.

“But we knew we had some good pieces in here and we’ve got a great staff, and management did a really good job with putting pieces together. And it hasn’t been easy, but we did everything we were supposed to do.”

All season, the Canucks have preached the importance of living day to day and staying level-headed.

That’s been key to the team’s success so far, and it will be through the playoffs, too, Miller said.

“I think it’s good that we didn’t really set any expectations. Our expectations were really more on a day-to-day basis. And it’s just nice to see,” he said.

“We’re not where we want to be yet, but when you have the whole team buy-in, getting summer over with a month earlier than normal and come in and put the work in, really come together. This is certainly part of the process. We’ve played a lot of good hockey this year. We should be proud.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2024.

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