Your Vancouver Canucks are in first place. The last time the Canucks stood atop the NHL this late into the season was the 2011-12 season, when they won the President’s Trophy for the second time.
They’re in first place in the entire NHL by raw point totals.
But more importantly, they’re in first place in the Pacific Division by points percentage.
And that’s the battle to really keep your eye on.
Because finishing first in the divisions means not having to face Vegas or Los Angeles in the first round. Yes, it could mean facing Conor McDavid in the first round.
But even the best player in the world doesn’t play goal — though given the Edmonton Oilers don’t seem to have anyone else to play in net, maybe they should give him a go there.
The point here is that Edmonton aren’t the scary playoff opponent some thought they’d be. And if they don’t actually make the playoffs, then it’s a real also-ran in that spot like the Calgary Flames, who are surely going to begin rebuilding, or the stumbling Seattle Kraken, who have none of the scoring and hence none of the swagger from last year.
The two vs. three matchup in the Pacific Division semi final is going to be a war. You want to avoid that.
The road ahead
After Saturday’s home game versus San Jose, the Canucks have one game in the following nine days.
They’re going to head into January very rested.
After opening January with a home game versus Ottawa, they have a seven game road trip. That’s a long, tough slog, but after a mid-way stop to open the trip in St. Louis, games two through four are in the Big Apple. Yes, those aren’t games at home, but at least you’re not dealing with some crazy travel logistics.
The travel for the remaining three games is far from arduous either: they play Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Columbus, each with a day of rest between and none of those flights are very long. The last game in Columbus is a matinee game, meaning the Canucks will be home in their beds at a very reasonable hour.
Then they have two full days off before a five games in nine days homestand that takes them to the All-Star break.
Playing rested is as good as it gets and the Canucks absolutely must clean up in this stretch of the schedule.
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