The Vancouver Canucks will qualify for the playoffs this season.
Or at least there’s an 80% chance of it.
With Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the books, the Vancouver Canucks have basically hit the quarter pole in their 82-game schedule.
Most people in the game look at the 20-game benchmark as a good barometer to determine where your team is at.
If you examine the data over the last decade so, you will find that approximately 80% of the teams above the playoff bar at U.S. Thanksgiving subsequently qualify for the post-season.
With the Canucks (13-7-1) trailing only the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference standings, you have to like the chances of ‘meaningful hockey’ being played at Rogers Arena in the last couple of weeks of April.
“I do know it’s important to have a good start to the season but we really are worried about the day-to-day process. We want to make sure we have that level of commitment and accountability within the group and it starts with the leaders on the team,” replied Canuck forward J.T. Miller when asked about the Thanksgiving benchmark.
The Canucks have got off to a surprising start but the start is being backed up by the numbers.
After Wednesday night’s slate of games, the Canucks have scored the most goals in the entire NHL (80) and have allowed the ninth fewest (51). They also have scored the second most power play goals in the league as well (22).
Defenceman Quinn Hughes continues to make plays that leave you shaking your head. The goal he scored against San Jose during Monday night’s 3-1 win at Rogers Arena where he came down the left wall and picked the corner against Sharks netminder Mackenzie Blackwood had some people on social media comparing him to Bobby Orr.
The Canucks captain currently leads the NHL in scoring with 31 points with Miller (30) and Elias Pettersson (28) right on his heels.
Meanwhile, goaltender Thatcher Demko continues to shine and is among the league leaders in goals against average (2.26) and save percentage (.923).
That’s the good news.
As Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet always like to tell the media, things are going to get tougher.
Vancouver’s schedule hasn’t exactly been the toughest and that’s why a lot of people were looking forward to the matchup against Colorado.
After the game in Denver, the Canucks are now 2-4 versus teams that are currently in the top ten in league standings and have yet to face four of those teams.
It’s imperative the club try take advantage of its first half schedule because the second half is going to be a lot tougher.
Then there’s the fact that the club is top heavy in scoring and will eventually need their bottom six forwards to provide more support to Hughes, Miller, Pettersson and Brock Boeser as 42 of the team’s 80 goals have come from those four players.
A lot of that production has come on the power play, which as one NHL scout told me, is where the hockey club seems to get most of its energy from.
After the game in Colorado, the only teams in the top ten that have a higher percentage of their goals scored on the power play than the Canucks (27.5%) are Tampa Bay (30.0%) and the New York Rangers (30.3%).
As the scout told me, if that power play hits a cold streak or levels off, it will impact the Canucks when it comes to wins and losses.
As for the Canucks themselves, the focus is on today.
“I don’t think we are looking to much into that stuff right now. We really are focused just day-to-day and I think it’s worked pretty well,” said Miller.
Tocchet’s message is simple.
Take care of the process and everything else will fall into place.
It’s something that the players have bought into and the results have reinforced that message.
“It’s not even about the wins and losses. You want to win but there’s a sense of winning the right way and playing the right way and if you do the right things more often than not you are going to get the results. You can’t make the result what it is – you have to really stick to the process. That’s why we have to earn the day and it’s been working,” added Miller, who pointed out a recent stretch of wins as an example of getting wins but not adhering to the ‘staples’ that Tocchet emphasizes.
Another dynamic that will come into effect should the Canucks continue this level of play will be what they see from the opposition.
They will go from being the ‘hunters’ to the ‘hunted’ as opposing teams bring their ‘A’ game to the table.
It’s been a great start to the season for the Canucks.
Now we’re going to find out just how good this team is.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.