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Paterson: It’s not too soon to be charting the Canucks’ magic number for clinching a playoff berth
14 days ago
For longer than anyone in these parts cares to remember, the start of the post-All-Star portion of the Vancouver Canucks schedule has offered little in the way of on-ice drama. Slow starts and a lack of wins have repeatedly put the hockey club behind the 8-ball in terms of playoff positioning entering the stretch run. There have simply been too many games remaining with far too little significance. And it all led to the inevitable which was mathematical elimination from playoff contention far sooner than anyone wanted.
But this season has been different on so many levels. With 73 points through 50 games and perched atop the National Hockey League standings after their 3-2 win in Carolina on Tuesday, the Canucks are poised to return to the postseason for the first time since the summer bubble of 2020.
And so, for the first time nearly a decade, the Canucks actually have a magic number rather than a tragic number.
Revisiting an article written in early December when the Canucks reached the 46 point mark through 33 games, if the team plays .500 hockey over its remaining 32 games, the Canucks will finish the season with 105 points. That’s if they play .500 hockey and they’re coming off a month in which they claimed 22 of 26 points available to them.
With just over two months remaining in the regular season, the overall playoff picture remains murky at this stage with so many moving parts. But the reality of the matter is that there are a finite number of points up for grabs, and it’s starting to get late in the day for a number of the teams in the chase pack, regardless of how close to the playoff bar they may appear.
Teams like Calgary, Arizona, Minnesota, Seattle and even Nashville still have plenty of runway, but can’t afford to fall much further behind Los Angeles and St. Louis the two teams currently holding down Wild Card spots in the West. The Predators are the team immediately below the playoff bar as of this writing, but they’ve played three more games than the Arizona Coyotes who are actually the team to watch in terms of the Canucks magic number. If you take the games remaining and the possible points up for grabs, the ‘Yotes can max out at 117 points while the Preds and Kraken can accumulate a maximum of 116 points. Calgary’s maximum achievable point total is 115, and Minnesota, which lost two straight heading into the break, can top out at 113.
If you use the Canucks point total (73) and subtract it from the maximum achievable totals for those other teams, divide that number by two (for the points granted for a win) and you’re looking at magic numbers over each of those teams in the chase pack:
Canucks Magic Number over
Arizona, Nashville and Seattle 22
Calgary is 21
And Minnesota is 20
Any combination of victories for the Canucks and regulation losses by those other teams will lead to a point where those clubs can no longer catch the Canucks.
For example, 11 more wins for the Canucks would earn them 22 standings points giving them 95 for the season. Additionally, 11 outright losses for Nashville represent 22 points the Preds cannot attain. At that point, their maximum achievable total would be 94.
So the race is on, and Canucks fans can clearly start to see the path to the postseason unfolding before their eyes. Aiding the Canucks cause is the number of head-to-head games remaining between those teams below the bar. Someone will win them, but they can’t both claim the two points up for grabs.
Of course, with the kind of season the Canucks are having, merely making the playoffs no longer seems like it should be the goal. But any postseason run has to start by getting that X beside a team’s name in the standings. So really, for this club that’s been down for too long, qualifying for the playoffs is an achievement worth charting.
And with games having resumed after the league’s All-Star weekend, the countdown to the playoffs is officially on and the time has come to start charting the Canucks magic number.
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