The Canucks are holding a very slim two point lead for second place in the Pacific Division, with the Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks nipping at their heels like a pack of rabid wolves.
The upcoming month is going to show a lot about the character of this group. So far they have fared pretty good without the services of Ryan Miller and a defensive core that is missing their top two blue-liners. However if the beginning of the month is an indication of the future, the Canucks could be in for a long month.
Their first three games of March haven’t shown that the Canucks can keep up with their Western rivals. Against St. Louis, they showed resilience by coming back from a 2-0 deficit early on, but went on to blow a three goal lead in the third period. Although they won in a shootout, the game never should have gone that far.
Jacob Markstrom had a nightmare start to his NHL season against San Jose, but he wasn’t bailed out by his defence in any way. When Eddie Lack entered the game, they did cut their deficit from 3-0 to 3-2, but faced an 18 shot onslaught from the Sharks in the second frame, and looked flat in the third period when they were down by two goals.
Maybe they were taken aback by those righteous retro uniforms that the Coyotes wore on Thursday night, but the Canucks were lucky to get to the shootout during their game in Glendale. Eddie Lack stood on his head in the final frame, but the Canucks handed the Coyotes their first win in almost a month.
Bottom line is, these are teams they need to beat. Even their win against St. Louis shouldn’t give them much confidence moving forward.
The Canucks play a lot of games against division rivals coming up. If they fail to pick up some points, they can kiss their playoff chances goodbye.
The Canucks have a 10-8-3 against the Pacific Division this season. Among the five teams in that division who are still in the playoff hunt, the Canucks have the worst winning percentage. While the Kings also have ten wins versus the division, they have only lost four games in regulation.
Here is a look at winning percentages within the Pacific Division.
Other than the Canucks lack of success, one of the more surprising figures might be how well Calgary has done against the division this year. For a team many expected to be in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, they are staying in the race with key wins against division opponents. Suffice to say the Canucks aren’t doing the same.
An Oiler-less Division
Not including games against the Edmonton Oilers paints a more realistic picture of how each team in the division has performed thus far. The Arizona Coyotes have a respectable 11-11-0 record against the Pacific, whereas the Oilers have a putrid three wins in 23 attempts within the division. Here are the winning percentages in the division, not including any games against theOilers.
The Sharks are the only team that slightly improve their winning percentage when not games against including Edmonton. Two of the Oilers’ three victories over Pacific rivals have come against the Sharks. Their only other win against the Pacific came against Los Angeles.
On the other hand, the Canucks winning percentage drops drastically. They have a laughable record against the Pacific if you take those four wins against the Oilers out of the equation. Without the Oilers gift-wrapping points for the Canucks, Vancouver actually has a 6-8-3 record against the division. Six wins in seventeen games against division rivals, one of whom they would likely face if they make the playoffs.
Other than the Oilers, the Canucks don’t have a winning record against a division rival this season. They have two wins and two losses against the Flames this season, although the Flames have an extra point in the match-up thanks to one overtime defeat.
Against the Sharks, the Canucks also have two wins and two losses, although through four games they have been outscored 14-9 despite the even record.
The Canucks have dropped two of three games to the listless Coyotes, including a 5-0 drubbing at Rogers Arena during a match-up in December.
Against the division leading Ducks, the Canucks have one win in four opportunities. Three of the four games between the teams have gone to extra time, although the Ducks spanked the Canucks 4-0 during their last meeting.
The one team in the division the Canucks have failed to beat this season is the Kings. They have only played two games against each other, but Los Angeles has come out on top both times, including a 5-1 pounding back at the Staples Center in November.
With the Kings poking their crown at the tail of the Orca’s, Vancouver needs to pick up some wins against Los Angeles during the next stretch of games. They face the Kings three more times before the season ends, and if they continue their losing trend against the defending champs, their playoff spot will likely be in jeopardy.
The Canucks are two points up on the Kings and Flames with the same number of games remaining. If they don’t improve their record against the division in the next month, they might not have to worry about facing one of their Pacific rivals in the playoffs after all.