Heading into the New Year the Vancouver Canucks are one of the best home teams in the NHL in terms of both points earned and winning percentage. So with that stat up their sleeve, Canada’s west coasters have to come up aces in a home-ice packed January.
Problem is, six of the nine teams they face at home this month are holding pocket rockets of their own with winning percentages legitimately above .500 on the road.
The should-wins come against sub-.500 teams Dallas (who they beat on the road to kick off 2010) and Columbus; the Stars because of their proximity in the standings and the fact the Canucks are 2-0 against them this year with Roberto Luongo in net, the Blue Jackets because they’re the weakest team visiting GM Place in January.
From there it gets interesting. Even though St. Louis is well out of the playoffs and fired their coach recently, they are still road warriors with an 11-4-3 record. Nashville, Calgary and Chicago are all ahead of Vancouver in the West standings and are a combined 34-18-7 on the road. Pittsburgh and Buffalo both hold home-ice slots in the East’s playoff race and are together 25-15-0 on the road, while the only other team with a sub-.500 winning percentage in unfamiliar arenas (Phoenix, 9-8-3) sits fourth in the West with a stingy defense and stellar goalie that can play through and match any game-saving saves from Luongo.
So while the home games become more and more important, the competition couldn’t be any stiffer.
But the complete opposite can be said for Vancouver’s three sparse road games through the rest of the month as Edmonton and Toronto sit below .500 on their home ice with a combined 17-18-8 record, while division rival Minnesota struggles for consistency night in and night out. With a road win in Dallas already notched, if the Canucks don’t end January with eight road points they better make up some of that lost time with a hot streak of home wins.
Because while Vancouver itself is very good on home ice (16-6-0), their road record is very average (9-10-1) and after the game against St. Louis on the 27th, the Canucks won’t return to home ice for a month and a half.
Rather than playing it slow and letting the road-heavy, post-January games dictate their destiny, the Canucks have to go all-in now when the cards, however slightly, are in their favor.
This article also appeared in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
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