Degrees of difficulty
Year after year, we complain about the Canucks’ schedule. So much so that Mike Gillis actually lobbied (perhaps successfully) to have the team’s travel schedule simplified next year. This year however, they enter the stretch drive with a schedule that might actually be their saving grace. At a quick glance anyway, it seems that the Canucks may have the more favourable schedule among the 8 teams vying for 4 playoff spots (i.e. Vancouver plus Phoenix, Edmonton, Columbus, Anaheim, Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado).
I’m not a statistician so I don’t know how accurate this would be, but I put together a difficulty rating using each of the Western Conference teams’ points percentage (total points gained divided by total points available), times the number of games left against each of those teams, and then divided the result by the total number of games left. Lo and behold, the Canucks’ opponents come out with the lowest average. (Note that I didn’t include the teams’ remaining games against the Eastern Conference to get the difficulty rating.)
Other things to note from this table:
- Of the Canucks’ remaining 34 games, 17 of them are in the friendly confines of GM Place (though maybe too friendly given their recent record there). They only have 2 long road trips left – an 8-gamer in February (actually 7 road games with a home game against Montreal in the middle of it) and a 6-gamer in March.
- The Canucks only have 5 remaining games against the top 4 teams in the Western Conference, the least number among the 8 teams. They also have 7 games left against the 3 bottom-feeder teams in the West (i.e. Los Angeles, Nashville and St. Louis); only Phoenix and Columbus play more games against those teams.
- Almost half of the Canucks’ remaining games are against teams they’re battling with for a playoff spot. Needless to say, they most certainly hold their playoff destiny in their own hands.
For once in the Canucks’ history, the schedule makers seem to be on their side. Can they take advantage of it?