What We Learned: Here's why nothing can stop the Canucks

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

At this point it's getting a little ridiculous.

Today is Jan. 10 and the Vancouver Canucks haven't lost a game in regulation since Dec. 5. Since that time, they've only lost three games, one of which was in a shootout. For a team that started the year taking six points from their first seven games, that's an incredible turnaround.

This is a team that's lost five games in regulation since the end of October, and three of those came in a row. They're on pace to pick up 120 points this year, and no one's gotten that many since Detroit in 2005-06.

So you might think that the Red Wings are uniquely positioned to stop them from winning the President's Trophy. They're only one point back of the Canucks (though they've played an extra game). They've picked up 100-plus points in each of the last 10 seasons and will almost certainly do it again.

But here's why the Wings, like the rest of the conference, can't catch the Canucks in the end.

(Coming Up: Sidney needs to stop complaining; Pierre McGuire could take over the Senators; Zdeno Chara's(notes) leadership lapse; Rick DiPietro's(notes) injury getting a little more dire; vintage Ovechkin; more crying about Rick Nash's(notes) non-calls; the Blackhawks struggle on the kill; in praise of Pacioretty; Dustin Byfuglien's(notes) gonna get paid; Panthers may keep Tomas Vokoun(notes); Brodeur starts; crazy Devils/Rangers/Penguins trade; and a new feature on WWL: This weekend's worst NHL Guardian superhero.)

Some might say the real stumbling block between Vancouver and a breezy jaunt to the best record through 82 games is its Downy-soft strength of schedule. To date, it's had the second-easiest set of games out of anyone in the West (oddly, behind Edmonton, which should tell you everything you need to know about how bad that team is).

As of Sunday, teams in the bottom half of the league had 47 points or fewer. Vancouver has played teams fitting this description 27 times in 41 games, piling up 19 of its 27 wins and 41 of its 60 points. That, of course, means that in the other 14 games, against teams in the top half of the league, the Canucks have gone just 8-3-3. That's a somewhat significant dropoff in points earned per game, from 1.52 to 1.36.

Not that 1.36 is bad at all, it's just not surefire President's Trophy stuff. And even that figure is buoyed by the Canucks' 4-0 record against Colorado (48 points), which also gets to play all the terrible Northwest teams.

It should also be noted that in the 12 games it's played against Northwest Division opponents, Vancouver has lost just once, and outscored those teams 45-24, a large part of the reason it's got the No. 1 goal differential in the league at plus-44 in 41 games. Tops in power play percentage and goals for per game. Fourth on the PK and in goals allowed per game. All very impressive. All anchored by playing in a division that is absolute garbage.

Problem is, no division in the West as bad as is the Northwest, and the Canucks have a lot of games left against those teams. Four each against Calgary and Minnesota, two each against Colorado and Edmonton. You can count on them picking up at least 16 points from that set. They can win 10 without even facing much resistance.

But the real reason the Canucks are going to win the League this year is that their remaining 41 games feature another 24 games against bottom-half teams.

Of those teams they've already played, they've taken 30 points from 21 games.

Luongo will still get great stats. The Sedins will still pile up points. Vigneault will continue to look like a genius. The back half of the season will likely feature more losses for Vancouver, but not many, and frankly, the final standings are still going to look like an absolute massacre.

Then the playoffs will start, every team will be good, and it'll be a whole different ballgame.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Andy Sutton(notes) hasn't been playing the kind of hockey he's wanted to this season, due to injuries and all around poor performances. Maybe he should consult an expert.

Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers have opened contract talks with a number of players, including Andrew Ladd(notes) and Dustin Byfuglien. Big Buff's gonna get paid, and for a lot of years.

Boston Bruins: Know what a good captain does after a tough OT loss to his team's top rival, with the division lead on the line, and in which he was on the ice for all three goals against and got a 10-minute misconduct after it ended? Not talk to the media. Good work, Zdeno Chara. That's leadership.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are slowly improving, and they couldn't be happier. "It's huge, not only to cap off our first big road trip, and also we're back at .500 here," said Drew Stafford(notes), who is unaware that being 18-18-5 makes you five games under .500.

Calgary Flames: The Flames' senior players are aware of the possibility they may get traded in the near future as the team considers a rebuild, but you can probably bet no one even remotely good gets shipped outta town this season, because they're still operating under the laughable belief that they can make the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes: Jamie McBain(notes) is turning into an excellent defenseman for the Hurricanes, so that gives them a grand total of one.

Chicago Blackhawks: Through Friday night, the Blackhawks had allowed 32 power play goals, up from 39 all of last season. That's really quite bad.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs scored twice in the opening 1:47 against the Islanders on Saturday, but then gave up three unanswered (all on the power play) before scoring with four seconds to go in regulation, then losing in overtime. Said Craig Anderson(notes) of the game-winner: "From what (backup goalie Peter Budaj(notes)) said, it hit our guy, off the crossbar and in. Not much you can do about that." No word yet on what you can do about the other three.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Break out the tissues for Scott Arniell again. "Boooooo hooooo Rick Nash gets so many penalties that go uncalled this is the worst league. *stamps feet, crosses arms* They need to give him star treatment too this is sooooo unfair ughhh." This is at least the 400th time this season he's given that exact speech.

Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn(notes) with a pretty okay goal.

Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings like where they're at through 41 games. "We had a lot of people not picking us to do well," Todd Bertuzzi(notes) said, "and I think that's motivation for this team." Fun fact: Exactly one moron on the Puck Daddy staff (coughJustinBournecough) picked someone other than Detroit to win the division or finish outside the top 3 in the West. What is Bert talking about? Hell, what was BOURNE talking about?

Edmonton Oilers: Headline that's three months early: "Sub-par Oilers hit the links." Guys, it's like you're not even trying.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers are talking about an extension with Tomas Vokoun. Someone please explain why they're not selling him at the deadline. Thanks.

Los Angeles Kings: Now that Jack Johnson(notes) is locked up for seven years at ridiculous money, Drew Doughty's(notes) gonna get bags of money dropped on his house from those planes that put out forest fires.

Minnesota Wild: As of Sunday afternoon, the Wild are a playoff team. I don't get it either.

Montreal Canadiens: Sweet shot by Max Pacioretty(notes) to win it in OT for the Habs.

It was Montreal's first win of the year when they entered the third period with a deficit.

Nashville Predators: The Preds went out to the west coast and played Anaheim, LA and San Jose between Wednesday and Saturday. They won all three, outscoring their opponents 11-4, which is decent.

New Jersey Devils: Marty Brodeur got his first start in eight days yesterday. Jacques Lemaire said he was on the right track. That's because, by not playing, he could not continue to allow his GAA to balloon past 4.00.

New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro didn't play this weekend because he was in New York being evaluated by doctors. Shockingly, they now think his groin injury is somewhat serious. If you can believe it.

New York Rangers: The Rangers won a shootout against Dallas on Friday, and it let me find out a wonderful stat.

Erik Christensen(notes) and Mats Zuccarello(notes) are a combined 5 for 5 in the shootout this season, and the rest of the team is a combined 0 for 14. Awesome stuff.

Ottawa Senators: A rumor I very, very badly hope is true: Pierre McGuire could be the next Sens GM. Not only would it be hilarious from an organizational standpoint, but it would also get him off TSN for a while. Win-win. Unless you're a Sens fan.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers have 57 points in 41 games this year, their best record at the half in 25 years. And one of these days they'll figure out that whole No. 1 goalie situation too, I bet.

Phoenix Coyotes: Wojtek Wolski(notes)? Still kind of terrible.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sid Crosby is doing nothing to dispel the notion that he will whine at the slightest provocation. Still bitching about the Steckel and Hedman hits. He shutting it down until he's symptom-free.

San Jose Sharks: Sick snipe by Jason Demers(notes) to win it for the Preds in San Jose.

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Oh he's on the Sharks? Ohhhh.

St. Louis Blues: TJ Oshie(notes) is still a ways out from being good to go. He broke his ankle on Nov. 10, and is still experiencing stiffness and range-of-motion issues.

Tampa Bay Lightning: When Steve Yzerman took over as GM, he said fans could expect a slow but steady rebuild. Instead, the Bolts are 2nd in the Eastern Conference. So what gives? "There are nights where I go home and think, "You know, we've got a real good team here,'" Yzerman says. "And then you lose 8-1 and you wonder, 'Are you sure you know what you're doing?'"

Toronto Maple Leafs: Best stat of the year to date: The Leafs pounded Atlanta 9-3 on Friday, and somehow Brett Lebda(notes) still finished the game minus-3.

Vancouver Canucks: Henrik Sedin(notes) on Daniel's goal production so far this season: "If I would have myself passing to me, I would have 24 too."

Washington Capitals: Beauty, vintage Ovechkin goal.

He's gonna be doing a lot more of that in the near future, I figure.

Gold Star Award

Jack Johnson picked up three helpers and $30 mil this weekend. Gotta be happy with that, eh?

Minus of the Weekend

How's this for goaltender management: Scott Craig Ramsay gives Ondrej Pavelec(notes) the hook on Friday after about 33 minutes, then Chris Mason(notes) went in, only to get pulled after five minutes or so. Then Pavelec played less than a minute before being yanked in favor of Mason, who closed out the game. They combined to allow nine goals on 34 shots.

That's a bit poor.

Play of the Weekend

A DECENT save from Jimmy Howard(notes).

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

This one from user "bernmeister" was tough to figure out, but I think I got it.

To Rangers:

Evgeni Malkin(notes), Jordan Staal(notes), Jason Arnott(notes), Corey Potter(notes)

To Penguins:

Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), Martin Brodeur(notes), Marian Gaborik(notes), Derek Stepan(notes), Cam Talbot(notes)

To Devils:

Mike Del Zotto, Dan Girardi(notes), Christian Thomas(notes), Michal Rozsival(notes), Chad Johnson(notes), Marc-Andre Fleury(notes), Chris Kunitz(notes)

A top line for the Pens of Kovalchuk-Crosby-Gaborik? Love it.

This Weekend's, Worst NHL Guardian

(A new short-lived feature, obviously.)

The Wild!

This does make me wonder: if the Guardian is a wolf that stole like two-thirds of Iron Man's suit (it sure looks like one, yeah?), is the Wild's primary logo also a wolf? If so, why does it look like a bear? If the logo is a bear, then why is the Guardian a wolf?

This is so stupid.


Hello, Mr. Kerns. Me want money bad. Me sick.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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