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Make it or break it

by Dave Tomlinson / Vancouver Canucks
There are 1,230 National Hockey League games scheduled for this year's regular season, and the Canucks will play the very last one.

That game, #1230, is on April 11th, when every other team in the league is in action too, but being that the Canucks are on the West Coast, it's considered the end of the regular season when that particular game is completed because of the time zone and late start. Game number #615 therefore, is the official NHL half-way point, and that occurred January 10th when Dallas played in the afternoon in Colorado. I mention this because typically the players themselves consider the end of the NHL All-Star break as the entry point into the second half of the year. Even though they are technically a few games into the second half, it does allow for looking into the rest of the regular season and assess what the Canucks team has in front of them leading up to the April 11th game.

More ABOUT TOMLINSON

Dave Tomlinson, radio Colour Commentator for the Vancouver Canucks, and analyst of all things hockey.

Follow Tomlinson on Twitter at @DTeam1040

The Canucks have had a break, are dealing with a break, have been given a break, and now must make their own breaks. Let me explain.

The break the Canucks currently have is of course the All-Star break, where Radim Vrbata represented the team in Columbus while the rest of his teammates either spent time staying down the South East Coast around Tampa and beyond for some sun, rest and relaxation, or headed up old Highway 99 to Whistler to regroup in the mountains.The five days away from practice will allow for accumulated bumps and bruises to mend, and the mental break will allow the players to come back fresh for what will be an intense race to secure a playoff spot. Being that the Canucks are a team that spreads out the ice time amongst all it's dressed players and are almost completely healthy, there's no reason to believe the team will hit the wall soon like last year.

Speaking of being healthy, the break the Canucks are dealing with is none other than the left hand of Kevin Bieksa, which was injured because of being hit by a ferocious one-timer that will have him out for quite some time. His leadership on the ice will be missed, and his minutes played will have to be absorbed by committee. Luckily the Canucks have groomed Frank Corrado well to this point, and can lean on him more consistently to fill in.

The break the Canucks have been given, in my opinion, is their schedule up to this point, as the Canucks have played fewer games than twenty-four other teams. Add in the fact that they were either home in Vancouver or at least in the Pacific Time Zone for 33 straight days from December 10th to January 11th and it's hard to argue that the Canucks could be a tired team, as only two games in that time period were on the road. The team will also finish it's regular season in Vancouver for the final three regular season games. So with the break ending Monday and the Canucks back at it on Tuesday versus division rival Anaheim, the time to make their own breaks is now.

How can they do that?

It can happen by continuing the winning frequency against teams below them in their Conference standings and teams in the East. The Canucks have been very consistent this season in beating teams they have more points than, and have also put together a very healthy 13-7-1 record against the East in general. So with 37 games remaining, 11 versus the East and 26 versus teams in the Western Conference, 13 of those games are against teams they currently have more points than. Along the way the Canucks can also make their own breaks by taking advantage of their home games and drawing more penalties at home to get their power play more chances. The Canucks have drawn amongst the fewest power play opportunities compared to other teams in the league and the third fewest at home to this point overall.

With more home games than road games remaining on the schedule, the Canucks have the chance to solidify their spot in the West, take care of the teams they have consistently beaten, and gear up for the other 13 games against teams from the West that have better records. Knowing that that is what is standing in the way of them making the post season or not, I'd say the Canucks can make a break for it!

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