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Busting Myths: Can the Canucks win against the NHL’s best and biggest teams?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
29 days ago
We here at CanucksArmy tend to pay close attention to our comment section.
That makes us somewhat uniquely qualified to notice trends in the fanbase of the Vancouver Canucks.
We listen to what our readers are saying. And we hear a lot from you, including stuff we don’t always agree with. But sometimes it doesn’t come down to a matter of opinion. Sometimes what gets passed around in the comment section here and elsewhere is downright mythological.
In other words, some things get said about the Canucks, 2023/24 edition or otherwise, that are simply not true. And today, we’re here to bust a couple of those myths.
This article is being written the morning after the Canucks dropped a fairly disappointing decision to the Colorado Avalanche. After leaping ahead 3-0, the Canucks let in four unanswered goals to fall 4-3 in overtime.
So, now is the perfect time to keep your eyes peeled for this false notion:
“The 2023/24 Canucks can’t beat the NHL’s best teams.”
It won’t always show up in this exact format. Sometimes it’s an implication that the Canucks have earned the bulk or too many of their points against weaker competition. That exact accusation got tossed out about Elias Pettersson recently, only to be expertly knocked down by Thomas Drance.
But what about the Canucks as a team?
For now, let’s stick with the same bounds used in the Pettersson analysis and check the Canucks’ performance against the top-ten teams in the league. By point-percentage, as of this writing, and excluding the Canucks themselves, that list is the Florida Panthers, the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins, the Winnipeg Jets, the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars, the Edmonton Oilers, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Nashville Predators (really?!).
Of that set, the Canucks have winning records against the Panthers (2-0-0), Rangers (1-0-1), Stars (1-0-1), Oilers (3-0-0), Hurricanes (2-0-0), and Predators (3-0-0).
They’ve broken even against the Bruins (1-1-0), Jets (1-1-0), and Leafs (1-1-0).
The aforementioned Avalanche are the only team on the list (0-2-1) that the Canucks have yet to beat, and the only team they hold a losing record against.
That gives the Canucks a total record of 15-5-3 against top-ten competition, or a point-percentage of .717.
That’s higher than the Canucks’ current overall point-percentage of .687. In fact, it’s higher than the Panthers’ league-leading .712, too.
And when we compare it to the Canucks’ record against the bottom-ten teams (San Jose, Chicago, Anaheim, Columbus, Arizona, Ottawa, Montreal, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Buffalo), we find the Canucks with a cumulative 15-2-2 record. Which is better than their record against top-ten teams at a point-percentage of .842. But that’s to be expected.
For the record, it’s the mushy middle that the Canucks “struggle the most against.” Versus the 11 teams stuck between the NHL’s top- and bottom-ten, the Canucks are 11-10-3 this season for a point-percentage of .520. That’s still a winning record, but just barely.
So go ahead and say “the Canucks can’t beat middle-of-the-pack teams” if you must. But don’t expect much beyond confused reactions.
Perhaps the bounds we’ve selected are a bit too wide. When people say the Canucks can’t beat the best teams, they’re probably not talking about the Nashville Predators, for example.
But if we narrow our view, little changes. The top five teams on the list are Florida, New York, Boston, Winnipeg, and Colorado. The Canucks are 5-4-1 against just that set. That’s a point-percentage of just .550, which is not terrific. But this is a small sample size, and it is fairly dominated by the Colorado example.
If we isolate things down to just the top-four, eliminating the Avalanche from the equation, we find the Canucks to be at 5-2-0, or a point-percentage of .714, still well above that season average.
Aren’t statistics fun?
Now, some of you might be thinking at this point that we must have misheard you. It’s not that the Canucks can’t beat the league’s best teams. It’s that they can’t beat the biggest. And size matters come the NHL Playoffs.
Once again, this is something we can check.
The NHL is a big league in more ways that one, and there aren’t really any truly small teams around anymore. The NHL’s heaviest teams weighs in at an average of 209lb (the Vegas Golden Knights), but they’re a bit of an anomaly at the top. The second-place team (the New York Islanders) weigh in at an average of 205lb, and then the list is fairly clumpy from there on down, with the last-place Philadelphia Flyers weighing in at an average of 191lb.
The Canucks, for what it’s worth, weigh in at an average of 197lb, good for 20th in the NHL.
Now, there are conveniently exactly ten teams with an average above 200lb, so let’s use that for our initial checking again. Those teams are Vegas (209lb), the New York Islanders (205lb), Boston (203lb), Edmonton (202lb), the New York Rangers (202lb), Montreal (202lb), Tampa Bay (202lb), Dallas (202lb), Winnipeg (201lb), and Washington (201lb).
Here, we find the Canucks with a 13-4-2 record, meaning a .736 point-percentage. For those keeping track at home, that’s the best point-percentage we’ve found yet for the Canucks, and better than their record against the league’s worst teams.
The myth is that the Canucks don’t play well against the league’s biggest teams. The reality appears to be the direct opposite: they play their best when the opposition is at their heaviest.
Again, isolating it down to the top-five doesn’t change much. That has the Canucks at 8-2-1, or a .773 point-percentage. That’s even higher!
In the interest of completion, we’ll also note that there are 12 teams lighter than the Canucks in 2023/24, and that the Canucks have a 14-10-5 record against them, or a .569 point-percentage.
So, again, if anything, the truth is in direct opposition to the myth: if anything, the Canucks struggle against teams that are smaller than them. They tend to dominate those teams that are bigger.
Which, ultimately, means very little when it comes to the postseason and a seven-game matchup against just one opponent in particular.
But, in general, the playoffs do usually mean facing off against bigger and better competition. We hope this brief data analysis at least provides reasonable expectations that the 2023/24 Vancouver Canucks are particularly well-equipped to face that challenge.
And that not everything you hear or read about them is true.

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