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Canucks playoffs might not begin until Tuesday, April 23

The Canucks' most likely first-round opponent is the Nashville Predators but when will their playoff schedule begin?
Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks are likely to face the Nashville Predators in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It has yet to be determined who the Vancouver Canucks will play in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs but we might have a hint of when it will begin.

The playoffs are slated to begin on Saturday, April 20, but that doesn’t mean every playoff series will start on that day. With the Canucks only finishing their regular season on Thursday, April 18, that would mean just one day off between games, which wouldn’t exactly be a fair and just reward for earning home-ice advantage.

Instead, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts podcast, they’re likely to start much later.

“If they play Vancouver, I don’t think Vancouver is starting ‘til next Tuesday,” said Friedman in a discussion of the Nashville Predators, their potential first-round opponent.

That would be Tuesday, April 23, which would mean four days between games for the Canucks. That seems ideal for the Canucks, giving them enough time to rest and be as healthy as possible for Game 1 but not so long that they risk getting stale from too many days off.

The same can’t be said for the Predators. Their regular season wraps up tonight, April 15. Starting the playoffs on April 23 would give them a whopping eight days off between games, which is arguably too much time.

The Predators are not the only potential opponent for the Canucks, however — just the most likely one. 

The Canucks have sewn up home-ice advantage and need just one more point to secure the Pacific Division, but there’s still a slight possibility that the Edmonton Oilers could catch them. There’s also still a chance for the Canucks to catch the Dallas Stars for first in the Western Conference but they would have to win both of their remaining two games, while the Stars would need to lose their final game of the season, tying the two teams with 111 points, with the Canucks holding the advantage in the first tie-breaker, regulation wins.

All of that leaves open the faint possibility that the Canucks could face the Los Angeles Kings or Vegas Golden Knights in the first round instead of the Predators. Like the Canucks, the Kings and Golden Knights both wrap up their seasons on April 18. A match-up between either of those two teams and the Canucks would leave them on equal footing in terms of rest.

If the Canucks do start the first round of the playoffs on April 23, that would be very unusual. Most years, the different playoff series in the first round all start on back-to-back nights.

In 2023, every playoff series started on one of two days: April 17 or 18. That’s the same as the last playoffs with a normal schedule back in 2019, where every series started on either April 10 or 11. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1999 to find a first round of the playoffs where the series had staggered starts across four days like what Friedman is suggesting will happen this year.

Perhaps it’s a residual element of the original playoff schedule for this year. The playoffs were originally expected to start on Monday, April 22 but the NHL bumped the start date up by two days. It’s possible that some markets, like Vancouver, were unable to accommodate the change in schedule.

If the potential first-round series between the Canucks and Predators does start on April 23, it becomes fairly easy to map out a full schedule based on the various concerts and other events already booked at Rogers Arena and the Predators’ Bridgestone Arena. Here’s what that could look like:

April 23 - Canucks vs Predators Game 1
April 24
April 25 - Canucks vs Predators Game 2
April 26
April 27 - Canucks @ Predators Game 3
April 28
April 29 - The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie at Bridgestone Arena
April 30 - Canucks @ Predators Game 4
May 1 - 21 Savage at Rogers Arena
May 2 - Canucks vs Predators Game 5 (if needed)
May 3 
May 4 - Gloria Trevi at Bridgestone Arena
May 5 - Canucks @ Predators Game 6 (if needed)
May 6 - Pearl Jam at Rogers Arena
May 7 - Canucks vs Predators Game 7 (if needed)

Then again, Postmedia's Patrick Johnston is reporting that the series could start on April 21. We won't know for certain until the NHL announces the official schedule.