There are two completely contradictory narratives regarding how the Canucks play against teams in the NHL basement: One is that the Canucks play down to their level and frequently lose to lesser opponents. The other is that their record is artificially good because they feast on weaker teams in the Northwest Division.
Both can’t be true. There were some voices in the hockey world last season that suggested the Canucks didn’t deserve their Presidents’ Trophy win because of their weak division. After all, no other team from the Northwest Division made the playoffs and the two worst teams in the Western Conference were the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers.
But if the Canucks play down to the level of terrible teams and tend to lose those games, then their record would be worse, not better, by virtue of playing in the Northwest Division.
On Sunday, the Canucks struggled against the Anaheim Ducks, who are currently 14th in the Western Conference. While there are certainly some reasons for their terrible performance (first game back from a road trip, fifth game in nine days, the Ducks were 4-0-1 in their last 5 games), the fact is that the Canucks lost to a team at the bottom of the NHL standings.
In mid-December, the Canucks lost two games against two of the worst teams in the league, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Carolina Hurricanes. Are these three losses indicative of a trend or are they isolated incidents? Let’s look at the Canucks’ losses and see what kind of teams they have lost to this season. Do they tend to lose more often to cellar dwellers or top teams?
It’s important to note how good Canucks fans have it: they can afford to complain about which teams the Canucks lose to, rather than the number of losses. The Canucks have lost just 15 games in regulation and 3 in overtime or the shootout this season. In chronological order, here are those losses:
1. October 6, 2011 – Pittsburgh Penguins – 4-3 SO
2. October 12, 2011 – Philadelphia Flyers – 5-4
3. October 13, 2011 – Detroit Red Wings – 2-0
4. October 18, 2011 – New York Rangers – 4-0
5. October 25, 2011 – Edmonton Oilers – 3-2
6. October 26, 2011 – St. Louis Blues – 3-0
7. November 3, 2011 – Minnesota Wild – 5-1
8. November 4, 2011 – St. Louis Blues – 3-2
9. November 11, 2011 – Anaheim Ducks – 4-3
10. November 16, 2011 – Chicago Blackhawks – 5-1
11. December 1, 2011 – Nashville Predators – 6-5
12. December 13, 2011 – Columbus Blue Jackets – 2-1 SO
13. December 15, 2011 – Carolina Hurricanes – 4-3
14. December 23, 2011 – Calgary Flames – 3-1
15. December 31, 2011 – Los Angeles Kings – 4-1
16. January 2, 2012 – San Jose Sharks – 3-2 SO
17. January 9, 2012 – Florida Panthers – 2-1
18. January 15, 2012 – Anaheim Ducks – 4-2
6 of their 18 losses have come against teams that are currently outside of the playoffs, exactly 1/3rd, which means 2/3rds of their losses have come against teams that would be in the playoffs if the regular season ended today. However, 5 of those 6 losses came against teams in the bottom-six in league standings.
Is that too many losses to teams in the basement? It’s hard to say. The worst teams in the NHL still manage to win games, often against very good teams. Simply put, bad NHL teams are still NHL teams. Ideally, the best teams would find the motivation to go out and dominate the worst teams, but the opposite is often true. Terrible teams get hyped up to take on the class of the NHL, while good teams do find themselves a little more unfocussed in those same games.
Yes, the Canucks lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets. So did the Red Wings. The New York Rangers, currently in first place in the NHL, have been beaten by the Islanders, Oilers, and twice by the Canadiens.
And the Canucks may have been beaten by the Carolina Hurricanes, but the Bruins have lost to them thrice.
With that said, Vancouver can’t let points like that slip away all season. As of this writing, the Canucks are 5-4-1 against the bottom six teams in the league. That’s just not good enough.
They are, however, 28-15-3 overall, which is pretty dang good.Tags: Blogs are for lists, Canucks, Sometimes those lists are not as fun as others