Vancouver Canucks: Why Their Schedule Says They'll Win the Presidents' Trophy

Adam GrahamAnalyst IIJanuary 6, 2012

Vancouver Canucks: Why Their Schedule Says They'll Win the Presidents' Trophy

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    At the midway point of the 2011-12 NHL season, the Vancouver Canucks are currently in familiar territory as they sit in first place in the Western Conference.

    Last week, fellow Canucks featured columnist John Bain wrote an article discussing the reasons why the Canucks would finish first in the West.

    While I agree with Mr. Bain’s reasons for predicting Western Conference supremacy for the Canucks yet again, I’m going to take it one step further.

    Not only will the Canucks win the Western Conference, but they’ll also capture their second straight Presidents' Trophy, and you don’t need to look any further than their schedule to find out why.

    Currently, the Canucks are trailing the New York Rangers by a point in the overall standings, and their Stanley Cup Finals rivals from Boston are tied in points with them and have four games in hand. However, the Canucks have several scheduling advantages over these two teams and every other team that I consider to be a contender as well.

    Let’s find out what these advantages are as I breakdown the schedule of every team that can contend for the Presidents' Trophy.

Who Are the Contenders?

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    The biggest threats to the Canucks as they continue their quest for the Presidents' Trophy in 2012 are the following teams:

    Boston Bruins

    - New York Rangers

    - Washington Capitals

    - Chicago Blackhawks

    - Detroit Red Wings

    - San Jose Sharks

    You might be asking yourself about a few notable omissions from this list.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers are certainly elite teams. However, each team is missing its MVP.

    The Flyers will be without Chris Pronger for the rest of the season due to a concussion, and Sidney Crosby will likely be out of the Penguins' lineup for at least another month as he’s still feeling symptoms from his most recent concussion.

    While both teams have the depth to still be considered elite teams that will cause problems for the contenders, they won’t win the Presidents' Trophy without their best players.

    As for a couple of other teams that are currently high in the standings, the Florida Panthers simply aren’t for real and will eventually relinquish their Southeast Division lead to the Washington Capitals, while the St. Louis Blues can’t expect the ridiculous goaltending from Brian Elliott to continue much longer. Both teams will make the playoffs, but they won’t come close to contending for the Presidents' Trophy.

    So with the true contenders established, let’s take a look at the key components to each team’s remaining schedule.

Home Games vs. Away Games

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    It's no secret that home games are much more advantageous in any sport. After all, the reason why these teams are competing for the Presidents' Trophy in the first place is so they'll have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

    Here's a look at how the contenders rank in terms of their percentage of home and away games remaining as of Friday, Jan 6:

    1. Rangers: 24 home vs. 20 away

    T2. Canucks: 22 home vs. 19 away

    T2. Red Wings: 23 home vs. 20 away

    T4. Blackhawks: 20 home vs. 22 away

    T4. Capitals: 21 home vs. 23 away

    T6. Bruins: 20 home vs. 25 away

    T7. Sharks: 19 home vs. 26 away

    As you can see, there isn't a huge difference between the home and away games for most teams, although the Bruins and the Sharks seem to be at the biggest disadvantage.

    In particular, the Sharks are the only team with less than 20 home games remaining, and they will also have a nine-game road trip to deal with in February. This should make it extremely difficult for them to legitimately compete for the top spot in the overall standings down the stretch.

Back-to-Back Game Days

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    History has shown that teams generally don't perform as well when playing on two consecutive days.

    In particular, the second of these back-to-back games is usually quite difficult. For example, Washington is just 1-2-1 in the second of their back-to-back games so far this season, so common sense should tell you that the team with the least back-to-back situations has a good chance of compiling a better record.

    Here's how the contenders rank in terms of who has the least amount of back-to-back game days:

    1. Red Wings: 3

    2. Canucks: 5

    3. Bruins: 7

    T4. Blackhawks: 8

    T4. Rangers: 8

    T4. Sharks: 8

    7. Capitals: 9

    Clearly, the Red Wings and Canucks have the edge in this department, while the Capitals will have a tough time with their remaining schedule, especially when you consider how they've struggled in the second half of back-to-back games so far.   

Games Against Elite Teams

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    This is where the Canucks have a huge advantage over their fellow Presidents' Trophy contenders.

    The Canucks have already played most of the top teams in the NHL a number of times this season. Combine that with the NHL schedule makers' propensity for matching up divisional opponents with each other down the stretch, and Vancouver appears to have a decidedly weaker schedule than the other teams near the top of the standings.

    For the sake of this list, the "elite teams" are defined as all of the Presidents' Trophy contending teams along with the Flyers and Penguins. After all, both of those teams are still among the best in the NHL, even if the absence of Pronger and Crosby will ultimately prevent them from winning the Presidents' Trophy.

    Here's how the contenders rank in terms of how many games against elite teams remain:

    1. Canucks: 6

    2. Sharks: 9

    3. Blackhawks: 12

    4. Red Wings: 13

    5. Capitals: 14

    6. Bruins: 15

    7. Rangers: 17

    Aside from the Sharks, who have a nine-game road trip waiting for them next month, every team on this list has at least twice as many remaining games against elite teams than the Canucks.

    This will likely be the biggest factor in their quest for the Presidents' Trophy.  

Conclusion

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    At the end of the day, most fans know about the Sedin twins along with the Canucks' scoring depth and their deadly goaltending duo. Obviously, these are all big reasons why the team is a legitimate Presidents' Trophy and Stanley Cup contender.

    However, all the contenders have their share of star players and other attributes to brag about as well. This is why you need to breakdown the schedules of these teams in order to separate the team that’s most likely to come out on top, which in this case is the Canucks.

    After all, Vancouver ranks first or second among the contenders in all three scheduling areas that matter most.

    This is why they will win the Presidents' Trophy once again and earn home-ice advantage throughout the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

     

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