Paterson’s Point: Canucks were beasts in the east this season; now schedule starts to work in their favour

Photo credit:© David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
2 months ago
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When JT Miller put the dagger in the Washington Capitals in the dying seconds of overtime on Sunday, he didn’t just end a busy weekend for the Vancouver Canucks. He also put an exclamation mark on the team’s run of regular season games in the Eastern time zone this season. The next Canucks visit to any of the NHL’s Eastern Conference arenas would only come if this team advances to the Stanley Cup Final.
So with 29 games remaining, the Canucks now very much have geography as an ally as they hit the home stretch of their schedule.
They have Tuesday’s game in Chicago to wrap up this road trip and then will finish the season with 17 of their remaining 28 games on home ice. Beyond that, however, is the fact that even with Tuesday’s tilt in the Windy City, the Canucks will play just six of their final 29 games outside the Pacific time zone — and three of those (at Chicago and then next week at Minnesota and Colorado) come in the next 10 days.
Just around the corner awaits a season-high nine game homestand that starts on March 9th against Winnipeg and runs through a matinee affair against Anaheim on March 31st.
And considering the Canucks are positioned well to open the Stanley Cup playoffs as a higher seed and with home ice advantage, this team no longer has to worry about the rigours of arduous travel for a while. The heavy lifting has been done and the Canucks should feel good about the fact they blitzed Eastern opponents, going 10-4-2 in their 16 games as the visitors. That success is a huge part of the team’s overall 17-8-4 road record this season. 
Helping the Canucks in their push for top spot in the Pacific Division is the fact that the three teams behind them all still have to make at least one trip out east. Vegas has a five game run remaining on its schedule, Los Angeles opens a four-game Eastern trip tomorrow in Buffalo, and Edmonton has two separate trips to the east left to come. The Oilers have a four-game junket to the US Northeast, including a game in Boston and then will make a quick trip to Toronto and Ottawa a few weeks later.
As it stands right now, no team in the NHL has played more road games than the Canucks this season. At 29, the Canucks have played three more road games than Vegas and four more than both the Kings and Oilers. So not only do those teams have more road games remaining, but they also have significantly more kilometres to cover in the race to the finish.
None of this will allow the Canucks to ease off the gas pedal in the weeks ahead, but it should give the coaching staff more flexibility in practice planning and the ability to provide players with rest and maintenance days.
When the schedule was released last summer, it was noted at the time that the Canucks had both the longest road trip in the NHL this season and the longest homestand. It was a schedule of extremes. Well, they crushed the road competition, going 5-1-1 on their seven game odyssey last month. And with how well they’ve played at Rogers Arena this season (18-4-2), the prospects certainly look strong for the Canucks to make home ice an advantage down the stretch.
The quality of competition the Canucks still have to face remains strong, with multiple games against Vegas, Colorado, Winnipeg and Los Angeles, but after a stiff travel schedule through the first 53 games, things have certainly turned in the Canucks’ favour from this point forward.
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