With the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline in the rearview mirror, the Vancouver Canucks can now focus on their hunt for a playoff spot—or, alternatively, their plummet to the bottom of the standings and another lottery pick.
Thanks to the parity of the Western Conference in 2018/19, either scenario seems equally likely at this point. As of this writing, only one Western team—Willie Desjardin’s Los Angeles Kings—are more than 10 points out of a playoff spot. The final six weeks of the season will determine which teams compete for the Cup and which teams hit the links—but how tough are those six weeks going to be for the Canucks?
The Canucks have currently played 63 of 82 games in the regular season, and sit with a record of 27-28-8—nothing special, but enough to have them just four points out of the last wildcard spot. With 19 games remaining, every point from here on out will be important—so let’s take a look at the strength of the Canucks’ remaining opponents.
A Note On Point Percentage
There are a few possible measurements available to gauge the strength of each NHL team, but for this exercise we’re going to use Point Percentage. It’s a simple formula derived from taking a team’s actual number of points and dividing it by the maximum number of points they could have attained (their games played times two.) For example, Vancouver has earned 62 points out of a possible 126, giving them a Point Percentage of .492.
When it comes to NHL hockey, Point Percentage works better than Winning Percentage thanks to the existence of points for overtime and shootout losses. It’s also more efficient than just using raw point totals, as not every team has played the same amount of games.
The Point Percentage for each team is current as of 7:00PM PST on February 26.
The Canucks’ Remaining Opponents
Wednesday, February 27 @ Colorado Avalanche
Point Percentage= .524
Today’s game against the Avs makes for a nice, medium-strength beginning to the stretch run gauntlet.
Thursday, February 28 @ Arizona Coyotes
Point Percentage= .508
The Coyotes seem like the team in most direct competition with the Canucks right now, making this a proverbial four-point game in the backend of a back-to-back.
Sunday, March 3 @ Vegas Golden Knights
Point Percentage= .548
Vegas should be rolling with the addition of Mark Stone, but winning at least one game in this deconstructed home-and-home will be vital to the Canucks’ playoff chances.
Wednesday, March 6 vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Point Percentage= .645
There’s a big discrepancy in Point Percentage here, but anything goes when the Canucks host the Leafs. This could be the makings of a major moral victory.
Thursday, March 7 @ Edmonton Oilers
Point Percentage= .476
The Oilers are more-or-less dead in the water, but further sinking their playoff hopes would be an added bonus to a two-point night. It’s still a back-to-back, though, which gives the Oilers an obvious advantage.
Saturday, March 9 vs Vegas Golden Knights
Point Percentage= .548
The second half of that previously mentioned home-and-home-with-a-couple-games-in-between. Vancouver needs to at least break even against Vegas—pun fully intended.
Wednesday, March 13 vs New York Rangers
Point Percentage= .508
The 1994 rematch is always fun, but the Canucks cannot afford to take the Rangers—who sport a superior Point Percentage—lightly.
Friday, March 15 vs New Jersey Devils
Point Percentage= .460
Cory Schneider is back between the pipes for the Devils, but that actually bodes well for the Canucks’ chances. Schneider has won four games in the last calendar year.
Sunday, March 17 @ Dallas Stars
Point Percentage= .540
Dallas currently sits in the last Western wildcard spot, and the Canucks will get two cracks at them before the season ends. These are definite four-point games.
Monday, March 18 @ Chicago Blackhawks
Point Percentage= .484
The Blackhawks just ain’t what they used to be, but they’re currently only one point behind the Canucks and cannot be discounted. Yet another four-point game, and it’s the backend of a back-to-back.
Wednesday, March 20 vs Ottawa Senators
Point Percentage= .389
That’s not a typo. The Senators have the worst Point Percentage in the league by a big country mile and are destined to finish last in the NHL. Unfortunately, their first round draft pick belongs to Colorado.
Saturday, March 23 vs Calgary Flames
Point Percentage= .690
The Flames are the class of the west right now, five points up on San Jose for first in the conference. Without Erik Gudbranson around to break faces, this will be a character test for the Canucks.
Sunday, March 24 vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Point Percentage= .589
The new-look Blue Jackets will be an interesting matchup. If their deadline additions are meshing well with the rest of the roster, this will be a tough one to win—especially on a back-to-back.
Tuesday, March 26 vs Anaheim Ducks
Point Percentage= .452
The Ducks and Canucks recently traded shutouts, but the Canucks won’t be too worried if they give up a goal in this one—so long as they walk away with two points over a floundering team.
Thursday, March 28 vs Los Angeles Kings
Point Percentage= .421
The Kings are the worst team in the Western Conference, but Willie Desjardins would love to play spoiler against his former club. This would be a devastating loss for the Canucks if they’re still in the hunt.
Saturday, March 30 vs Dallas Stars
Point Percentage= .540
The second and final March matchup against the Stars. If the Canucks happened to lose the last meeting between these two, then this game becomes all the more important.
Tuesday, April 2 vs San Jose Sharks
Point Percentage= .641
Could Jonathan Dahlen receive a callup to make his NHL debut against his former team? It would make for an interesting storyline in a game that will be tough enough as it is.
Thursday, April 4 @ Nashville Predators
Point Percentage= .608
Nashville will be tuning up for a lengthy playoff run by this point, so there’s a slight chance the Canucks could catch them off guard. If Vancouver is still battling for a wildcard spot, a win would make for a mondo morale booster.
Saturday, April 6 @ St. Louis Blues
Point Percentage= .581
St. Louis has been on a tear of late, rocketing from the bottom of the standings to third in the Central Division. Chances are good they’ll have cooled of by early April, which means they could be battling for a wildcard spot—and this could be one last four-point game.
Total Number Of Home Games= 11
Total Number Of Away Games= 8
Back-To-Back Games= 4
Average Point Percentage Of Opponents= .534
Sizing Up The Competition
Of course, any statistic is meaningless without context, so let’s provide some. We’ve also crunched the numbers for all the teams that the Canucks will be competing with for those wildcard spots in the Western Conference.
That means we’ve taken the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators, and Winnipeg Jets off the list—as they’re virtually guaranteed playoff spots at this point—as well as the lowly Los Angeles Kings. Everyone else is a contender—and thus, a threat to the Canucks’ playoff livelihoods.
|Team||Points||Games Remaining||Home Games Remaining||Away Games Remaining||Back-To-Backs Remaining||Average Point % Of Opponents|
|St. Louis Blues||72||20||9||11||5||.525|
|Vegas Golden Knights||69||19||10||9||4||.540|
Admittedly, the Canucks have a difficult path to the playoffs—and the fact that they’re currently four points out certainly doesn’t increase the odds. Eleven games at home will help, but four back-to-backs will not. The Canucks’ Point Percentage of .492 is significantly lower than the average of their upcoming opponents at .534.
That being said, the Canucks can’t claim to have a tougher road than the teams they’re competing with for a playoff spot. Vancouver’s remaining schedule has a difficulty level that’s mostly in line with the rest of the wildcard contenders.
The Canucks do have a notably easier remaining schedule than the Minnesota Wild—who don’t play a team under .500 for the rest of the season—which bodes well for the Canucks knocking them out of a wildcard spot. Unfortunately, they’ll be one of six teams trying to do just that—and the playing field is about as level as it’s ever going to get.