From encouraging winning streaks to a scoring drought and a brutal losing skid, it has been a season of extremes for the Vancouver Canucks.
Would the real Vancouver Canucks please stand up?
Vancouver got off to an encouraging 4-0 start to 2016-17 with four one-goal wins, the first three of which went to overtime or shootout.
Then the wheels fell off and the club lost nine games in a row.
Over a five-game stretch during that losing streak, the Canucks scored just two goals. They were shut out four times in those five games. During the losing streak, Vancouver collected one out of a possible 18 points.
Even though it was early, the Canucks looked down and out. Any team that loses nine in a row is going to put a dent in their playoff hopes.
Fast forward to January and Vancouver is right back in the playoff picture. Friday night, the club earned its NHL-leading sixth-straight win to slide into the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference standings.
True to the peculiar trends of their season, the Canucks extended their streak with a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames – while being outshot 46-13.
“We won’t make the playoffs playing like that,” said Vancouver head coach Willie Desjardins after the game, per Harrison Mooney of The Province. Yet, that very effort pushed them back into postseason position.
“We’ll take it,” defenseman Luca Sbisa told The Province. “But it wasn’t pretty.”
Not only was it not pretty, it marked the worst shot differential for a win in team history.
— Canucks PR (@CanucksPR) January 7, 2017
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 7, 2017
With the Canucks now at their official mid-way mark of the season, they’ve virtually erased the deflating effect their nine-game losing streak should’ve had on their playoff hopes.
However, their underlying stats suggest the club may not be able to sustain a playoff spot. Vancouver ranks 22nd in goals-for per game (2.44), 21st in goals-against per game (2.85), dead-last in shots-for per game (27.4), 21st in shots-against per game (30.8), 27th on the power play (14.4 percent) and 21st on the penalty kill (80.2 percent).
One bonus to the Canucks’ point total has been their 4-1 record in the shootout. Their four shootout wins are tied for second-best in the NHL.
While the numbers suggest the Canucks shouldn’t be in a playoff spot, they’ve found a way. Whether they keep it is anyone’s guess. In a season of extremes, if the first half has taught us anything, it’s that the Canucks are unpredictable.