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Could Easy Schedule Propel Canucks to Playoffs?

If there’s a glimmer of hope (other than Petey) this might be it...

Antoine Roussel
Jan 20, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Antoine Roussel (26) celebrates his goal against Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) (not pictured) during the third period at Rogers Arena.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Playoffs? Are we talking about playoffs?

This is the time of year where the Canucks have consistently fallen off over the last three years. So, does anybody think this year will be any different?

In part, you should, but that’s mostly due to Elias Pettersson. Having a healthy roster also helps, since the Canucks have ended their last couple of campaigns pretty banged up.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks begin their post-All Star break playoff push against the Colorado Avalanche. Last time the two teams met, they played a thrilling game where 13 goals were scored.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Saturday night against, the Canucks are tied with Colorado for the final playoff spot, although the Avs have a game in hand. After a week and a half off, this will be the first push for the Canucks to vie for the postseason.

If you’re looking for some optimism about the Canucks playoff push, look no further than their remaining schedule.

Easy Petey Schedule

According to Power Rankings Guru, the Canucks have the 6th-easiest schedule remaining in the league. The only team competing with them for a playoff spot who has an easier schedule is Dallas. St. Louis is the only other competing team who has a schedule that ranks in the top-half for ease.

NHL Strength of Schedule
Power Rankings Guru ranks their strength of schedule from toughest to easiest. Here’s the bottom-half of their list.
Power Rankings Guru

The rest of the Western Conference teams competing with the Canucks are in the top half for tougher schedules. Arizona (15th), Colorado (14th), Anaheim (12th), Edmonton (10th) and Minnesota (9th) should all be in tougher than the Canucks, based on schedule alone.

That’s certainly good news for the Canucks, considering that over the last two months, they’ve generally been beating the teams that they should beat, while losing often to good teams.

Here’s a breakdown of how they’ve performed against playoff and non-playoff teams.

October: 6-4 against playoff teams, 2-2 against non-playoff teams

November: 2-6 against playoff teams, 1-2-3 against non-playoff teams

December: 3-4-1 against playoff teams, 5-1 against non-playoff teams

January: 0-2 against playoff teams, 4-1-2 against non-playoff teams

Overall: 11-16-1 against playoff teams, 12-6-5 against non-playoff teams

So after beating six current playoff teams in October, the Canucks have only won five games in 17 tries against playoff teams. Of those five wins, two were in overtime (against Colorado and Calgary), and one was a lucky come-from behind win against Columbus, where they only played 20 minutes of hockey and still came away victorious.

I won’t discredit them for their other two wins in that time span, on the road against Boston and at home against Nashville. Those two victories were easily two of the Canucks best games of the season.

Still, if the Canucks are going to make the postseason, they’ll need some wins against playoff teams. Even though their schedule is easy in comparison to the rest of the league, here’s a breakdown of what’s left:

Games against playoff teams: 16 (CBJ, COL x2, CGY x2, DAL x2, NSH, NYI, SJ x3, TOR, VGK x2, WSH)

Games against non-playoff teams: 15 (ANA x3, ARI x2, CHI x2, EDM, LA x2, NJD, NYR, OTT, PHI, STL)

Surviving February

My esteemed NM colleague Kent Basky went over the Canucks schedule in detail throughout February, and it’s easily the most difficult part of the Canucks schedule in terms of volume and travel.

In February, the Canucks play eight of 13 games on the road, with three of those road games being back-to-backs. It’s not all doom and gloom however, with the Canucks road record (11-12-3) and home record (12-10-3) being fairly similar.

The Canucks have 16 home games and 15 road games remaining, but will enter March with 11 home games and 7 road games left on the schedule. Half of those games are against playoff teams. It’s starting to feel like, although the Canucks have an easy schedule, there’s no such thing as easy in the NHL.

By the time March rolls around, we should have a clear idea of where this team stands. Will they be playing meaningful games in March for the first time sine 2015, or will deja vu rear its ugly head in Vancouver once again?