With the first half of the season officially over, it’s time to take a mathematical look at how the Canucks need to perform for the rest of the season.
There was of course a lot of worry when Roberto Luongo injured his groin back in November. There was worry as to how the team would respond and if they would be able to keep pace in a competitive Western Conference. The team’s response? Points-wise anyway, the Canucks have done relatively-well since November 20 (Luongo’s last full game was on November 19 against the Rangers).
The race is undoubtedly close, but in that 22-game stretch dominated by road games, they gained enough points to keep themselves right in playoff contention. As I type this, the Canucks sit with 47 points in 41 games, good for 5th place in the Western Conference and 7 points up on 9th place Columbus. They were obviously better with Luongo in net – 19 GP, 11-6-2, 24 of 38 points (63%) – but credit to the team for hanging on without him. (And thank the hockey gods for not allowing any other team – well, except for Calgary – to pull away.)
James Mirtle has his annual playoff push post up. Currently, he predicts that teams need to finish with at least 90 points to qualify for the postseason, though it’s worth noting that the 8th place teams in the 3 seasons since the lockout needed 96, 95 and 91 points.
So what does this all mean?
If the Canucks and the other Western Conference teams play at the pace they’ve played since November 20, the Canucks will get to the magic 90 points and qualify for the postseason.
Now how do they get there?
Let’s assume a couple of things: first, that Luongo would be fit to return right after the All-Star break; and second, that they get 4 more OTL/SOL points (approximately 10% of their games – their historical average).
The Canucks gained 52.3% of available points since Luongo went down. They currently have 47 points in 41 games, and if they continue at that 52.3% pace in the 7 games until the All-Star break, they’ll have 54 points in 48 games by then. They’ll need 36 points in the 34 games after the All-Star break to get to 90 points (53% pace) – that’s about a 16-14-4 record – though the hope of course is that they get better than that especially with Sundin’s addition and Luongo’s, Salo’s, Johnson’s and Pyatt’s returns. As disappointing as the last couple of losses have been, there’s no reason to write the Canucks off just yet. Despite the adversity of the last two months, they’ve put themselves in a good position for a second-half playoff push.
(Note 1: I purposely left San Jose, Detroit and Chicago off the tables.)
(Note 2: God help us if Calgary actually does rack up 112 points this season.)