The Canucks have done well so far. It’s only going to get tighter from here on in: the margins for themselves, and from the opposition.
Let us take stock of these Vancouver Canucks.
After 21 games, they sit third in the Pacific Division.
Fourth-place Calgary actually have played one more game than the local heroes at present, so the Canucks are, truly, full value for their position.
They’ve scored 10 more goals than they’ve conceded.
Their power play remains one of the league’s better outfits. The penalty killing was never going to stay quite as dominant as they were when they burst out of the gates, but they’re still in the top 10.
The goaltending has been a bit of a mixed bag, but if you were told in the summer that the Canucks would be playing entertaining hockey and getting enough results to put themselves into a 50/50 position for a playoff push, you’d be pretty impressed.
As it stands, this is a team that does look like it can score its way out of problems. Saturday’s tilt with the Colorado Avalanche may have finished up as an overtime loss, but once again the Canucks’ offence pulled off some heroics.
Goals give you chances.
“That game tonight, it’s going to help us,” Sven Baertschi said of his club, who now head out on a six-game road trip, the longest of the season, one that features plenty of tough opposition and, if it goes disastrously right or disastrously wrong, could prove to be season defining.
“Coming back against them tonight and our big guys, I thought they really stepped up and that’s going to give you some confidence,” Baertschi added. “Getting that point tonight, it was important for us, you know. We’d probably go on the road right now with a little bit of a different feeling if we would’ve lost in regulation tonight, but I thought the effort was good at the end.”
It’s a big road trip. The Canucks have just one win in their last seven games.
Still, if they can play .500 hockey between now and Christmas, they’ll be setting themselves up well for the second half.
Tighten the screws
The West is getting so tight.
The Jets, who we’ve all been saying are in trouble because of the turnover on defence coupled with the loss of Dustin Byfuglien, are still sitting third in the Central.
The Stars and Flames are in the two wild-card spots, with the likes of Anaheim, Nashville, San Jose and Vegas nipping at their heels.
Heck, even Chicago, who looked very good in overcoming a solid road performance by the Canucks 10 days ago, are in the mix.
The West is going to be a street fight, complete with chains, tridents, homemade street batons and worse.
According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s projection system at HockeyViz.com, the Canucks came into Saturday with a 44 per cent chance of making the playoffs.
Before the season, the chances were roughly one in five. Just a couple weeks ago, they were above 60 per cent.
Life moves fast.
LISTEN: The latest edition of the White Towel podcast is super-sized: Host Paul Chapman is joined by Canucks beat writers Patrick Johnston and Ben Kuzma plus columnist Ed Willes. The quartet take a look at Quinn Hughes’ ongoing growth as an NHL defencema