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Paterson’s Point: Home from the road, opportunity knocks for the Vancouver Canucks

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Photo credit:© Simon Fearn-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
3 months ago
Maybe the most impressive thing about the Canucks’ 11-3-1 start to the season is the fact that nine of their games and six of their wins have come on the road. The Carolina Hurricanes are the only team in the National Hockey League to have played more games as the visitors than the Canucks so far this season. And by crossing a pair of eastern road trips off the list in the early going, the Canucks have set themselves up to take a big bite out of the schedule between now and the new year.
Starting with Wednesday’s home game against the Islanders, the Canucks will play nine of their next 14 and 13 of their next 22 games on home ice where they just happen to be 5-0-1 so far this season. And beyond the fact they have just three games outside the Pacific time zone between now and December 16th — and two of those are one-off trips to Calgary — this upcoming stretch of games appears to provide a real opportunity for the Canucks to tighten their grip on one of the top spots in the Pacific Division.
Seven of their next ten opponents are currently below the playoff bar and one of the three teams occupying a playoff position is the surprising Anaheim Ducks (Colorado and Vegas are the other two). In their next ten games, the Canucks will see the flickering Calgary Flames twice, the struggling Seattle Kraken twice, and they have a pair of games against the inept San Jose Sharks before the end of the month.
Regression be damned, the Canucks may push their mind-boggling statistics to another level by taking advantage of this soft pocket on their schedule. Of course, the Canucks can’t look at it like that. They have to continue to focus on each game as they play it. And as Rick Tocchet pointed out after the team’s 5-2 win in Ottawa last week, the Canucks are now the hunted – as bizarre as that sounds for a team that has been preyed upon for far too long now. But the coach is quite right as he has been with just about every decision he’s made so far this season.
With the record they’ve put up through 15 games, the Canucks aren’t sneaking up on anyone and they’ve got to be prepared for the best their opponents have to offer. But that’s the thing. Based on the way they’ve played most – not every – night out, the Canucks should be capable of handling the best that some of these scuffling teams can throw at them right now.
It’s remarkably early to be looking at the standings, but at the same time in just over a week the Canucks will be at the 20 game mark. And a few nights after that, it’ll be US Thanksgiving and history has shown that teams above the playoff bar at that point in time are usually well positioned to still be there at season’s end.
This start to the season is no longer a mirage. And while there are statistics that can not be sustained, the Canucks have proven to be a star-loaded hockey club with a supporting cast that is now providing insolation on the nights the stars aren’t at their radiant best. Sunday in Montreal was a perfect example of a team at the end of a three games in four nights road trip that saw its third line rise to the challenge and take over a hockey game. And with the return of Teddy Blueger from injury, the Canucks have their best assembly of bottom six depth in years.
The Canucks have three of the top five scorers in the league and some are wondering what’s wrong with Elias Pettersson who has more points than anyone else in the NHL. They have one of the league’s leading goal scorers, two of the highest scoring defensemen, one of the best power plays in the league and one of the top netminding tandems. 
And now after a gruelling stretch of games that has taken them across the continent twice, the Canucks have an opportunity to step on the accelerator. They’re already eight games above NHL .500 and if they continue to do what they’ve been doing, it won’t be a shock to see them sitting a dozen games above that mark with a successful 10 game run starting Wednesday against old friend Bo Horvat and the Islanders.
If the Canucks get to 12 games over .500, hockey math kicks in and tells you they simply need to be a .500 team over the balance of their schedule to reach 94 points for the season. So the significance of a fast start was huge, but these next 10 games present a tremendous opportunity for the Canucks to widen the gap on so many of the teams in the chase pack.

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