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Paterson’s Point: Consistency key to Vancouver Canucks’ climb to the top

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Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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While this surprising season for the Vancouver Canucks will likely be remembered for the many incredible individual accomplishments that resulted in five players and a head coach representing the organization at the All Star weekend, in many ways, it hasn’t been the high of highs that have the Canucks on the verge of clinching the Pacific Division title. It’s been a remarkable consistency over the course of a marathon regular season that has the Canucks with a magic number of one to lay claim to top spot in the division.
With last night’s 3-1 win in Edmonton, the Canucks reached the 80-game mark of their schedule with an impressive record of 49-22-9, good for 107 points and a five-point bulge over the second-place Oilers.
If you break the season down into 20-game segments, the Canucks have gone:
1-20: 13-6-1 (27 points)
21-40: 13-5-2 (28 points)
41-60: 12-5-3 (27 points)
61-80: 11-6–3 (25 points)
Don’t focus on the wins or the points gathered, but instead look at the regulation losses: 6-5-5-6. That is the definition of consistency over the long haul. And while the start was impressive and an 18-2-4 stretch in the middle of the season propelled the Canucks to the top of the standings, really the most recent 20-game run is probably the one that stands out above the others. 
With star netminder Thatcher Demko on the shelf for the past 14 games, the Canucks – and it didn’t always look convincing – found ways to more than weather the storm. The past week is a perfect example of the way this team has demonstrated resilience. Coming off sound road spankings in Vegas and Los Angeles not that long ago and with the Pacific Division perhaps slipping from their grasp, the Canucks have picked up five of a possible six points available to them, including a gut-check win against Vegas with a third-string netminder overcoming a shaky start and last night in Edmonton with Casey DeSmith putting a personal four-game slide behind him to rise up to turn in his best performance since Christmas.
Those are just recent examples of the perseverance this team has exhibited.
Until they lost four in a row in mid-February, incredibly, the Canucks had lost back-to-back games in regulation only twice through the first 55 games they’d played. And how did they respond to the first real adversity of the season? They rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Boston 3-2 in overtime, starting them on an 8-2-2 run over their next dozen games. 
In November, when they alternated wins and losses over a 10-game stretch and it was fair to wonder if the hot start had simply been a mirage, the Canucks won their next four and six of their next seven with their lone loss in that stretch a shootout setback in Minnesota. 
And now they’ve gone 2-0-1 in their last three to all but close out the Oilers’ hopes of clipping them at the finish line.
Even when the power play has struggled, or the penalty kill has looked leaky, or star players haven’t played to their full potential, or depth scoring has dried up, or injuries hit, the Canucks have avoided the kinds of stretches that can derail seasons. With Rick Tocchet’s structure and systems in place, the coach seems to have implemented a safeguard that has allowed the Canucks to avoid lengthy letdowns. Again, it hasn’t been perfect. And while there hasn’t always been consistency from shift to shift or period to period, in the big picture and by the numbers, the Canucks have put together four astoundingly similar 20-game stretches that few in the league have matched this season.
And that consistency at the team level has been such a huge part of this organizational turnaround that has led the Canucks back to the playoffs for the first time in four long years. 
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