Photo credit:© David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Are the Canucks halfway to the playoffs after just 33 games? The hockey math adds up
2 months ago
WARNING: the following article contains plenty of hockey math.
SPOILER ALERT: most of that math adds up to the Vancouver Canucks securing a Stanley Cup Playoff berth for the first time since the summer bubble of 2020.
With their convincing 5-2 win in Nashville on Tuesday night, the Canucks improved to 22-9-2 on the season which is good for 46 points through 33 games. Double that total and 92 points gives every indication it will be plenty to qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference this season. Based on the current standings, it’s hard to see how eight other teams will finish with more than 92 points. And with the incredible start they’ve had, the Canucks can actually slow their pace considerably and still reach the 92-point threshold.
The Canucks are currently a season-best 13-games over NHL .500. The calculations show the Canucks can be three-game under .500 over their final 49 games and still reach those 92 points. Or simply put the Canucks could go 23-26 the rest of the way to gain the remaining 46 points needed. That would allow them to suffer 17 more outright losses than they have to this point and still reach the mark required.
Now, usually 92 points would leave a team knocking on the playoff door, but ultimately on the outside looking in when the post-season begins.
But this year is shaping up as one of those outlier seasons where it’s going to be difficult for many teams to accumulate 92 points.
Let’s look at the current standings:
*St. Louis is currently the top team below the playoff bar with 31 points in 31 games. The Blues are on an 82-point pace. They have been wildly inconsistent to this point, have recently fired a coach and got throttled 6-1 in Tampa Bay last night. The Blues are going to have to channel their 2019 magic and go an incredible second half run just to be a playoff team. Based on the roster and some of the holes in their line-up, it seems hard to see this version of the Blues catching fire over the final months of the season
*Calgary also has 31 points, but in 32 games. By the numbers, they’d need to be better than the Blues from this point forward to reach the 92-point mark. They’ve won their last two games just to get within striking distance of .500, but have given no indication they’re going to play 11-game over .500 from this point forward
*Minnesota has 30 points in 30 games. Again, they’d need to be so much better than they’ve been to this point to put themselves in a position to get to 92 points. They’ve already fired a coach and they’re playing better under John Hynes, but serious questions remain about their offensive fire power to stay in the playoff mix in the West
*Seattle has 29 points in 33 games. They’d need to be 14-game over .500 the rest of the way to reach 92 points. They just pulled out of an 8-game tailspin, but show no signs of being that surprise team that reached 100 points and the second round of the playoffs last season
*Edmonton has 27 points in 29 games. A week ago, it looked like the Oilers were going to be the team to emerge from this pack. But after three straight losses, their recent eight game win streak doesn’t feel nearly as meaningful. The Oilers may very well end up being a playoff team with a low bar, but they’ll need to be 12 games over .500 over their final 53 (32-20-1) to reach the 92-point mark and they’ve dug themselves such a hole to climb out of, they may find out there is just too much work ahead of them.
The amazing part in all of this is that even if one of the Blues, Flames, Wild or Oilers do get on a remarkable run, there’s every possibility that Arizona may not get to 92 points. The Coyotes currently hold down the second wild card spot with a record of 16-13-2, however their 34 points in 31 games puts them on pace for just 90 points at season’s end. Of course, what the Central division teams do really only matters to the Canucks in the event that one of the Pacific Division teams well below them catches the Canucks and bumps them into a Wild Card slot. So while the article includes teams like St. Louis, Minnesota and Arizona, the real focus is on Calgary, Edmonton and Seattle.
Remember, too, that all of this is using 92 points as the mark required to secure a playoff berth in a watered down Western Conference. But let’s go back to the Canucks current record of 22–9-2. If the Canucks merely play .500 hockey from here on out, they will get to 95 points at season’s end.
Here is what the other teams would need to do to eclipse those 95 points:
St. Louis (31 pts/31 games): need to go 30-16-5 (65 pts)
Calgary (31 pts/32 games): need to go 30-15-5 (65 pts)
Minnesota (30 pts/30 games): need to go 33-17 (66 pts)
Seattle (29 pts/33 games): need to go 33-15-1 (67 pts)
Edmonton (27 pts/29 games):need to go 34-18-1 (69 pts)
There’s lots of hockey to be played and the Canucks need to continue to do their part to sock away as many points as possible to maintain their spot near the top of the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings. And while they have played a compressed schedule prior to Christmas, they need to recognize they have a challenging second half in terms of quality of opponents (four versus Los Angeles, three each against Vegas & Winnipeg, two left with Colorado and Boston, plus single games remaining against the Rangers and Toronto). So there are plenty of challenges ahead for this hockey club. But the Canucks have done well to pull away from the playoff pack to this point. In no way can they rest on their laurels, but they’ve certainly done enough to apply the pressure to so many teams in the chase pack. And as the hockey math shows, it’s going to be tough for the teams around the playoff bar to make up the necessary ground to reel in the Canucks in the second half of the season.
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