As the Canucks enjoy a well deserved weekend off, a quick look at where they are in the standings reveals a chasm between them and their nearest competitor in the Northwest division.
The Canucks sit in first place with 77 points while the Minnesota Wild currently sit in second place in the division with 59 points. That leaves the Wild in ninth in the Western Conference and outside the playoff picture.
To put it in perspective, the Canucks would have to lose 10 games in a row (in regulation), while the Wild would need to win a matching set of 10 games before the clubs would change places in the divisional standings. With the Canucks having secured at least a point in all but 10 games so far this entire season, it should be fair to say that losing the division title would be extremely unlikely.
But how is it that the Canucks were able to put such tremendous distance between themselves and their division rivals this season? Three factors came into play here: dominance against their division, point-splitting between opponents and some surprising help from other Western Conference teams.
Firstly, the Canucks have been very good against the Northwest this year, racking up a divisional record of 11-2-2 thus far. The only other team in the NHL with a better record in their division are the Philadelphia Flyers at 12-2-1. The really surprising statistic is that of their 11 divisional wins, 10 have come in regulation, leaving no overtime points on the table. This is an incredible accomplishment considering the history of what has often been a tightly contested division, one where most fans can remember countless games that needed overtime to decide a winner.
The inverse is also true, with two of the Canucks’ four losses in the division coming with the extra overtime point. The most wins a Northwest opponent can claim to have earned against the Canucks this season are two by the Wild. In short, they have had their foot on the throat of the Northwest division all season.
Second, there has been a reasonable amount of point splitting within the division, which is fairly common across the league. Calgary at 8-8, Colorado at 5-8-1, Edmonton at 2-9-2 and Minnesota at 11-4-1 have for the most part subdued their ability to chase the Canucks by being pre-occupied with fighting each other. Again, what is notable is here is the general lack of overtime points garnered in these head-to-head match-ups.
These records on their own should not lead to the disparity seen between the Canucks and the rest of the Northwest, but two clubs have aided the Canucks by absolutely owning the Northwest division this year. The Red Wings have throttled the whole division, walking away with a 12-2-1 record. While that may not be too surprising coming from the conference’s second best club, the eighth place LA Kings have rattled off an unexpected 10-1-2 tally against the Canucks’ closest rivals.
Essentially, whenever it looked like there was a chance for a team to close ground on the Canucks, the Wings or Kings would roll into town and stop their momentum, as was again the case last night in Calgary. The combined 22 wins the Kings and Wings have posted represent up to 40 points that rival Northwest clubs have been starved of in their chase.
Overall, it’s been a perfect storm of sorts for the Canucks who continue to enjoy incredible success through the regular season. With a couple more games to be played against the Northwest this month, the Canucks should be able to mathematically lock up the division title in the next few weeks and begin their focus on a much anticipated playoff run.