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Jeff Paterson: There's no place like home

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks

Home sweet home.

Not much more needs to be said for the Vancouver Canucks when trying to explain why the team is where it is in the Northwest Division, Western Conference and overall National Hockey League standings.

When they left the building after Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, the Canucks were the best home ice team in the league.

Stop and take a moment to process that.

And that victory over the Desert Dogs – the team’s 28th win of the season at General Motors Place -- allowed this 2009-2010 version of the Canucks to etch its place in the franchise record book. No team in Canucks history had ever won more than 27 games in a season on home ice and this group gives every indication that it’ll get to 30 and quite possibly 31 when the regular season ends on April 10th. And there are a lot of people hoping there are bunch wins at The Garage to come once the playoffs around.

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What makes the Canucks so good on home ice?

Clearly it starts with good players and the Canucks have a bunch of those. Henrik Sedin is second only to Sidney Crosby in home ice points this season (60) while Daniel is 15th in the league with 44 home ice points and Ryan Kesler is 19th with 41. So the Canucks have three of the top 20 players in the league when it comes to racking up points in front of the home fans.

The Canucks special teams have been awfully good at The Garage and that’s another factor that has this team clipping along with a 10-1-1 mark in its last dozen on home ice. After the win against Phoenix, the Canucks have the third best home power play (24%) and are fourth in home penalty killing (86.2%).

It hardly matters how you slice things statistically for the Canucks this season, the numbers keep telling a similar story about the way they play at home.

With 134 goals scored (3.53/game), the Canucks are second in home ice goal scoring and they are tops in the league having surrendered an NHL-low 77 goals (2.02/game) when skating as the home team.

Perhaps more than anything though, the one thing that has propelled the Canucks to success at GM Place this season has been the team’s ability to jump on its opponents and bury them early.

And Tuesday against Phoenix was the best example of that in a season that’s been full of quick starts. With Alex Burrows opening the scoring 37 seconds into the hockey game and Mason Raymond following up at 4:08, it marked the 13th time this season the Vancouver Canucks have opened a 2-0 lead in the first period of a hockey game at home. Tuesday, however, was the first time all year the Canucks have been able to establish such a lead in the first five minutes of a game on home ice.

On the season now, the Canucks have opened the scoring in 25 of their 38 home games and extended that lead to 2-0 at some point on 17 occasions. So in nearly half the games they’ve played at GM Place, the Canucks have found a way to take a 2-0 lead.

As good as they’ve been when forced to come from behind in hockey games, the Canucks have also proven to be terrific front-runners (29-7-1 overall when opening the scoring) and one of the main reasons for that is because so often when they get the first goal, they get another one to back it up and put their opponents back on their heels.

Ultimately, the Canucks have to make sure that all of this regular season home ice success carries over into the playoffs.

The home ice record is the biggest reason the Canucks are closing in on back to back Northwest Division titles and it’s to the point now where that level of success can’t be ignored by opponents coming to town in the post-season.

The Canucks have established dominance at GM Place and it certainly looks like they’ll have home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs and there’s a chance that could carry over into round two and beyond.

Toss in the fact that the next time the Canucks step on home ice – Sunday April 4th against Minnesota -- they’ll play to the 300th consecutive sold-out crowd at GM Place and it’s been a remarkable season in this city.

As the Canucks have shown time and time again and hope to continue showing on a lengthy playoff run, there really is no place like home.

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