Mathematics 101, Canucks style

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

As the Canucks near the quarter-pole of this long awaited NHL season, it is the usual time for fans to do some extrapolating.

Ignore what your mother says; you won't go blind.

It's just basic math, where you take your favourite team's record after 20 games, multiply it by four and the product provides you a rough estimate of the pace said team is on.

Heading into Wednesday night's game in San Jose, Vancouver was on track for 109 points, which would represent a franchise record for a single season.

Ah, if it were so simple.

The problem with the aforementioned formula is that it doesn't take what really matters into account. While it's encouraging to see the locals on a record-setting pace, there are numbers inside the numbers that warrant closer scrutiny.

Upon further review, we study the Canucks' first 18 games of the season. Ten of those were played against teams with records over .500. Vancouver won four of them, and lost six of them, with two of those losses coming in overtime. So against the best teams they had played so far, the Canucks have managed 10 of a possible 20 points. Not bad, not great.

Another sample worth looking at, is how Vancouver has fared against the get-well cards sprinkled around the league, the teams they should beat.

Good teams feast on the bad ones, at least they should. The Canucks are seven and one against competition with records under .500.

But again, upon further review, the numbers are somewhat underwhelming. Three of those seven wins have been by one goal, two of them by two. In other words, closer than they should have been for a team considered among the NHL's elite.

Speaking of which, let's have a gander at the Ottawa Senators, arguably the class of the league at this point. Of their 13 wins, one was by eight goals, two by six, two more by five goals and another by four. That's nearly half of their wins by an average of just under six goals.

The Canucks most convincing win thus far? A 6-2 dismantling of the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

But there are other patterns that coaches look for within schedule segments, one of which should please Marc Crawford to some degree.

The Canucks have showed off that intangible "character" on a number of occasions so far this season, an ability to "bounce back", to borrow another time-honoured sports adage.

They lose a heartbreaker in overtime Oct. 8 in Edmonton, but two nights later knock off the Wings in Detroit. There was the inexplicable no show in Minnesota on Oct. 12, when they were bleached 6-0. Two nights later, they rebounded for a 5-3 win over the same Wild bunch. They lost 6-2 in Colorado Oct. 27, a score that might have actually flattered the Canucks. But again, within 48 hours against the same opponent, they were much improved, albeit in an overtime loss.

The message here is that there is so much to look for beyond the wins, losses, overtime and shootout results. Sometimes a record is an accurate reflection of how good a team really is, but more often than not there is much more to it.

Have a question? Send it to barry.macdonald@24hrs.ca


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