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Breaking down the Canucks schedule for the 2021-22 season

An exhaustive exploration of the ins and outs of the Canucks 2021-22 schedule.
Are you excited to see Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks in person again?

A lot went wrong for the Vancouver Canucks last season. 

The Canucks clearly missed the players they lost in free agency more than they expected, their franchise forward Elias Pettersson suffered a season-ending injury, and new goaltender Braden Holtby struggled in his new environs. That’s not to mention dealing with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the NHL.

Not helping matters was a tough schedule to start the season that saw them play 16 games in the first 27 days. With few days off between games, the Canucks couldn’t find practice time to correct issues and, exhausted, they stumbled to a six-game losing streak in early February.

“I think it’s been brutal,” said Green at the time. “We own the losses, though. I’m not saying that we deserve to win games that we haven’t, but I think the schedule has played a part in our start.”

“I think we really missed the practice time,” he added. “You work on your structure, your details in practice. We’ve been trying to show it in video, but you need to run through it, especially early in the season.”

The end of the season was even worse, as they had to cram in games that were postponed during their COVID outbreak. Their initial schedule had them playing 19 games in 31 days until J.T. Miller spoke out on behalf of the team, saying, “I’m worried about our team’s safety.”

The revised schedule that further postponed the Canucks return to play still saw them play 19 games in 32 days with five sets of back-to-backs. 

The Canucks’ schedule for the 2021-22 season, however, shouldn’t be as gruelling.

For example, the Canucks had a total of 11 sets of games on back-to-back nights in just 56 games last season. This coming season, they’ll have the same number of back-to-backs but they will be across a full 82-game schedule.

Let’s take a closer look at that schedule.

Canucks have among the fewest back-to-backs in the NHL

The Canucks’ 11 sets of back-to-back games gives them a little bit of an advantage compared to the rest of the NHL.

Only one team has fewer back-to-backs than the Canucks: the Edmonton Oilers, who have just 9 back-to-backs next season. That’s half as many as the team with the most: the New York Islanders, who have 18.

Here is the number of back-to-backs for the entire NHL. Within the Pacific Division, the Los Angeles Kings have the most back-to-backs with 16 and the league isn’t taking it easy on the Seattle Kraken, giving them 15 back-to-backs in their inaugural season.

Back to back games 21-22 seasonThe number of back-to-back games for each NHL team in the 2021-22 season.

One interesting wrinkle is that just two of the Canucks’ 11 back-to-backs will come at home. In other words, the Canucks will be traveling in between games for their other nine back-to-backs, which makes them just a touch more difficult. 

Rested versus tired

Another way to look at back-to-backs is by looking at who has “rest advantage.” What this means is looking at not just when the Canucks will have back-to-back games but whether they’ll be playing a team who is also tired or if they’ll be playing a rested team.

Ten times this season, the Canucks will play a rested team after playing the previous night — in  other words, all but one of their games on the second half of back-to-backs will be against a rested team

On the other hand, the Canucks will be the rested team against a tired team 14 times. That +4 differential is tied for the fourth-most favourable in the NHL behind the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and Edmonton Oilers.

The Ottawa Senators will have the toughest schedule when it comes to rest, with a -9 differential, while the Kraken have the toughest in the Pacific Division at -5.

According to Micah Blake McCurdy, the effects of playing a tired team while rested are approximately equivalent to the effects of home-ice advantage. In other words, it’s like the Canucks will have home-ice advantage an extra four times next season.

On the road again

The Canucks won’t get home-ice advantage to start the season, as they’ll be on the road for their longest road trip at six games. The final game of that road trip will be the Seattle Kraken’s home opener on October 23, with the Kraken coming off three days of rest.

Don’t say the schedule makers didn’t give you anything, Kraken.

The Canucks will have two five-game road trips in the Eastern Conference — one from November 24 to December 1 and one from January 11 to January 18 — and three four-game road trips. One interesting wrinkle is that the Canucks will have at least two days between games after for of those five road trips, hopefully lessening the impact of that first game back at home, which can sometimes feel like the last game of a road trip.

Their toughest road trip will likely be in January. It features some tough travel, a game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, and two afternoon games, which can be extra tough for a west coast team.

January as a whole could be a tough month — just five of the Canucks’ 14 games will be at home and they’ll be coming off 15 games in December, the most they have in any month. That’s a part of the schedule to keep an eye on.

April, on the other hand, looks a little easier. They’ll have just 12 games in April, with only one set of back-to-back games. Six times they’ll have a two-day break between games and only five of their games will be on the road. If the Canucks are still in contention to make the playoffs near the end of the season, perhaps this lighter schedule will be to their benefit.

Games against Pacific Division rivals

Speaking of April, the Canucks will face all but one of their Pacific Division rivals at least once in April, with eight of their 12 games coming against a divisional opponent. The Anaheim Ducks are the only Pacific Division team they won’t face that month but the Ducks are more likely to be in the basement than the playoff hunt.

That will make the playoff race particularly interesting heading into the final month. If it’s at all close, all those divisional games could be extremely important.

The Canucks will face most of the Pacific Division four times — two games at home and two games on the road. The exceptions are the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, who they’ll face just three times. The Sharks will have home-ice advantage twice against the Canucks, while the Canucks will have home-ice advantage twice against the Kings.

As for the rest of the league, the Canucks will play each team in the Central Division three times and each team in the Eastern Conference twice — once at home and once on the road.

Break for the Olympics?

The Canucks don’t have any games scheduled from February 2 to February 23, as the NHL has scheduled a break for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

A return to the Olympics was agreed to by the NHL and NHLPA as part of the four-year extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020 ahead of the playoffs. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, has it up in the air whether or not players will actually participate in the 2022 Olympics.

The NHLPA has notified players that the NHL will not cover COVID-19 insurance during Olympic qualifiers or the Olympics themselves. The most recent update, however, is that the IIHF will cover insurance for NHL players, at least for Olympic qualifiers. Several NHL players are participating in those qualifiers this week, including former Canuck Antoine Roussel for France.

It remains to be seen, however, if this will extend to the Olympics themselves, which is a major hurdle for NHL participation in the Olympics. If the IIHF does not cover insurance, the players might not go to the Olympics, and the NHL will release a revised schedule that fills in that February break.

If NHL players do go to the Olympics, several Canucks could potentially represent their respective countries, including Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, and Bo Horvat. 

Notable games/dates

Let’s take a look at some notable dates on the calendar for the Canucks' 2021-22 season.

October 13 - The Canucks will kick off the season against the Edmonton Oilers, as they have in each of the past two seasons. In fact, the Canucks have faced either the Oilers or the Calgary Flames in the first game of the season for eight-straight years. You have to go back to 2013, when they faced the San Jose Sharks in the first game of the season, to break the streak. 

October 23 - After an Eastern Conference swing, the Canucks will end their road trip with their first game in Seattle. It will be a short trip home after playing the Kraken and they’ll have two days off, so they shouldn’t feel any ill effects for their home opener.

October 26 - Speak of the devil, here’s their home opener against the always-exciting Minnesota Wild. Actually, they should be pretty exciting: this will be the first chance for the Canucks and Canucks fans to see Kirill Kaprizov, last year’s Calder winner as rookie of the year. Canucks fans wanting to attend will, of course, need to be fully vaccinated

November 2 - The New York Rangers will be in town, which is always a good time. Potential undercard: Adam Fox, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, facing his former Harvard defence partner, Jack Rathbone. This assumes, of course, that Rathbone makes the team and is in the lineup.

November 24 - December 1 - This could be a tough five-game Eastern road trip. The November 29 game in Montreal will be their third game in four nights, as will the following game in Ottawa on December 1. Might not be anything to worry about, but keep an eye on it.

December 6 - This could be an emotional one: Alex Edler will return to Rogers Arena with the Los Angeles Kings after 15 seasons with the Canucks. Fire up the “Thank you, Edler” video and keep the Kleenex handy for the inevitable tears.

December 18 - It’s a home game on a Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, so you know what time it is. 4:00 PM. Heaven forbid the Leafs play the late game on Hockey Night in Canada. The only other 4:00 PM home game on the schedule is on Sunday, April 3 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

December 19 - This will be the first time ever that Oliver Ekman-Larsson plays against the Arizona Coyotes, his home for 11 seasons. This will be a home game — he’ll have to wait until April to play in Arizona again. Of course, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Loui Eriksson will be back in town for this game too. 

December 27 - This will be the first Seatle Kraken game in Vancouver. Will we see some Kraken jerseys in Rogers Arena? 

January 15-16 - The Canucks will face the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 PM and then the Washington Capitals at 2:00 PM. That’s local time, which means 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM start times in B.C. That means you can watch the Canucks in the morning and let it make or ruin your entire day. Good times.

February 2-23 - Olympics!

March 17 - The Detroit Red Wings will be in town for their only game in Vancouver. You know what that means — Troy Stecher’s first game in Rogers Arena since the Canucks let him go to free agency.

March 26 - Another afternoon game on the road — 12:30 AM against the Dallas Stars — so it’s another morning game in B.C. at 10:30 AM. That’s a minor complication in a short, four-game road trip through the middle of the U.S. 

April 3, 6, and 12 - This could be the most interesting set of games for the Canucks all season, as they’ll face the Vegas Golden Knights three times in a little over a week. The Golden Knights are expected to once again be the best team in the division, so these three games could make or break the Canucks’ season, depending on where they are in the playoff picture.

April 7 - Here’s that first game back in Arizona for Ekman-Larsson. Expect an ovation from the Coyotes faithful — maybe even a howl, I don’t know — and an emotional Swedish defenceman.

April 29 - The final game of the regular season against the Los Angeles Kings. This will be a home game for the Canucks but will it be the last one of the season or will it be a launching point into the playoffs?