The Vancouver Canucks have been able to remain competitive throughout January, but mostly thanks to a weak schedule.
Looking at the numbers, the Vancouver Canucks have not been outstanding lately. Yet, they are extremely close to the wild-card playoff spots. A lot of that is likely due to the weak schedule in January and could change very soon.
In January, the Canucks played eight of their 12 games against teams that were outside of the playoff spots. For any team with playoff aspirations, those are without a doubt must-win games. And, the Canucks actually managed to win a fair share, putting them within three points of the wild-card spots with three games in hand over the Calgary Flames.
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February will be a lot tougher.
Tonight, the Canucks will face the San Jose Sharks at home. On Saturday, the Minnesota Wild will visit Rogers Arena. After that, the Canucks will embark on a six-game road trip, facing at least four teams that seem playoff-bound.
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By the end of the season, Vancouver will have played five more games against the Sharks and three more against the Edmonton Oilers. In addition, they will face the Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars one time each.
That makes 16 games against Western Conference rivals who are all in playoff contention.
Of the 32 remaining games, only three will be played against teams that seem very unlikely to make the playoffs at this point: the Arizona Coyotes, the Detroit Red Wings and the Buffalo Sabres.
The playoff race is wide open, and it won’t be easy.
"We need to show we can compete against these guys. We have 10 games until our break, so it's the story of our season right now." – Tanev
The players seem to understand the seriousness of the situation, which is a great place to start. Because even if they put in the necessary effort, they have been unable to prove they can be a top-16 team in the league this season (so far).
On the bright side, we will know where the team is at by the time the trade deadline rolls around. That should make some decisions a lot easier.