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Number Crunching XVI: What If?

It is a contemplative week for Number Crunching as we look towards the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs for the 2010 Northwest Division Champions Vancouver Canucks. As part of our reflection, we take a trip down memory lane and revisit our mid-season award predictions and give our final thoughts on which Canucks should walk away this season with some hardware.

WHAT IF DANIEL SEDIN DID NOT MISS 19 GAMES THIS SEASON DUE TO INJURY?

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2410_burtwin_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Henrik Sedin had a bad sense of déjà vu this past Thursday in Los Angeles (in addition to the bad taste left in his mouth from an 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the Kings) when - for the first time since mid-November - he looked over to his left winger and didn't see the familiar face of brother Daniel starring back at him.

Despite playing in a career-high 19 games without Daniel this season (Daniel's previous career-high for most regular season games missed in a single year was seven while Henrik's is six), Henrik has managed to hold his own as evidenced by him challenging for the Art Ross Trophy this season as the NHL's leading point scorer.

So just where would Henrik be had Daniel been by his side for all 79 games and counting this season?

Henrik has been a point-a-game player so far this with Daniel out of the lineup scoring 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games with his brother on the shelf and while that pace would have been enough to match his previous career-high already, with brother Daniel in the lineup Henrik has been (naturally) even more dynamic.

Through 60 games with Daniel in the lineup, Henrik is averaging 1.45 points-per-game with 19 goals and 87 points. If he managed to keep that pace for an entire 82-game season, Henrik would have finished this season with roughly 119 points.

In that alternate reality, only three post-lockout players would have had more points in a single season than Henrik: Joe Thornton (125 points in 2005.06), Jaromir Jagr (123 points in 2005.06) and Sidney Crosby (120 points in 2006.07).

WHAT IF THE CANUCKS DON'T WIN ON THURSDAY IN SAN JOSE?

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_clowe_fps.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">If the Canucks don't secure at least a single point against the Sharks on Thursday in their final road game of the season, it will mark the first time since the 2000.01 season that the Canucks will qualify for the playoffs despite having a losing road record during the regular season.

Having a sub-.500 record away from home heading into the playoffs is nothing new for the organization however. Out of the previous 22 times the Canucks have qualified for the post-season, only nine times have they had a .500 or better road record heading into the playoffs.

So how has a positive road record during the regular season translated into success away from the home in the playoffs?

In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is at .500 or better (1991.92, 1992.93, 1993.94, 1995.96, 2001.02 2002.03, 2003.04, 2006.07 and 2008.09), Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 26-24.

In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is below .500, Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 12-24.

WHAT IF THE CANUCKS HAD NOT BEEN BLOWN OUT BY THE KINGS ON THURSDAY?

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0110_lak_kopitar_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With the Canucks being pounded on the scoreboard on Thursday in Los Angeles, they opted to take a small measure of revenge out on their opponents by dishing out 32 hits versus just 15 delivered by the Kings that night.

The 17-hit differential in favour of the Canucks marked a season-high for Vancouver surpassing the 16-hit positive differential they had way back on October 5, 2009 in their home opener - a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Overall, it was just the third time this season Vancouver has out-hit an opponent by double digits and good thing too considering the Canucks are 0-3-0 in those three games.

Conversely, the Canucks' record this season when out-hit by double digits is 7-5-1.

NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0210_ducks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Michael Grabner: Three goals and five points in four games played.

After just one point in his first five games back in the NHL, Michael Grabner finally found his game this past week recording a three-game point streak from March 30 - April 2, highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks.

There may have been grumblings about Grabner being slotted right away onto the second line upon his return to the NHL - ahead of a 20-goal scorer such as Mason Raymond - but Grabner quickly put his critics to rest by having the best week of his NHL career to date.

Grabner's emergence and the respective returns of Pavol Demitra and Mikael Samuelsson to the Canucks lineup now gives the Canucks three solid scoring lines heading into the playoffs. With Steve Bernier inching closer towards a return to the lineup as well, the Canucks could arguably be the deepest team at the forward position compared to all other NHL playoff-bound clubs.

CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar3010_juice_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kevin Bieksa: One goal...err, almost, in four games played.

In the immortal words of Dr. Evil: "Throwing me a frickin' bone here!"

After not finding the back of the net since Vancouver's season opener back on October 1, 2009, Kevin Bieksa looked to have finally bumped the goal slump on Sunday when he was credited with a goal against the Minnesota Wild in the second period of that contest...or so he thought.

Unfortunately, 17 minutes worth of intermission time and the work of some overzealous off-ice officials at GM Place on Sunday took away what would have been Bieksa's second goal of the season and gave it to Kyle Wellwood. (Remember when fans booed Tanner Glass earlier in the season for being credited with a goal that was initially thought to be Wellwood's? Ah memories.)

To his credit, Bieksa still finished the week off with two assists (should have been a goal and an assist...just saying) and now has 18 helpers on the season.

A LOOK BACK AT NUMBER CRUNCHING'S MID-SEASON AWARDS

Back in late December - when this blog was in still in its infancy - we came out with our Special Mid-Season Awards Edition where we gave you our picks for the Canucks award winners had the season ended at the same time the 2009 calendar year did. Here's a look back at those picks and what our final thoughts are now:

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar3010_burbieksa_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Most Exciting Player

Mid-season pick: Mason Raymond

Year-end pick: Alex Burrows

Analysis: After 39 games gone by in the season, only one player - Henrik Sedin - had more goals on the team than Mason Raymond who had already shattered his previous career-high with 17 tallies. Raymond's production has dropped since then with just seven goals in his last 40 games. But even with that said, it is clear Alex Burrows is the runaway pick for this award. His back-to-back hat tricks just a week after that blog was published was a sign of things to come for the Pincourt, QC native who looks poised to finish the season with the most goals on the team.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/032410_VAN_ANA_205d.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Fred J. Hume Award for Unsung Hero

Mid-season pick: Willie Mitchell

Year-end pick: Andrew Raycroft

Analysis: Perhaps this award should still go to Willie Mitchell considering Vancouver's struggles at the defensive end of the ice since his absence. Number Crunching is good, but not good enough to predict Willie would last just over two more weeks after that blog was published before being shut down (we assume) for the rest of the season due to a concussion. However, it's hard to argue with what Raycroft has done in the second half of the season. Since that blog was published, Raycroft's highlights include stepping into a 3-0 deficit in Toronto and helping the Canucks pull out a 5-3 win back on January 30 and clinching a playoff spot for the boys on April 2 in Anaheim with a 5-4 shootout victory. His nine wins (and counting) this season are the most by a Canucks back-up in the Roberto Luongo era.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_scrappy_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Babe Pratt Trophy for Most Outstanding Defenceman

Mid-season pick: Christian Ehrhoff

Year-end pick: Christian Ehrhoff

Analysis: He's been Mr. Consistency on the back-end all season. His 14 goals and 43 points lead all Canucks defencemen in those categories while he also has an eye-popping plus-33 rating. The Canucks can only hope his tweaked knee at the end of Sunday's win over the Wild at GM Place is nothing serious.

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_face_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Cyclone Taylor Trophy as Canucks MVP

Mid-season pick: Henrik Sedin

Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin

Analysis: We figured he would runaway with the team's scoring lead, but we never thought he'd be close to running away for the NHL's scoring title as well. Henrik is not only a shoe-in for the team MVP, he deserves serious consideration for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP as well (Ken Campbell...I'm looking at you).

<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_luclowe_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Molson Cup Winner

Mid-season pick: Roberto Luongo

Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin

Analysis: Somewhere between our Mid-Season Awards blogand now, the Canucks official Media Game Notes package stopped listing the full points standings for the Molson Cup - which is given the player with the most three-star selections at the end of the season. What we can tell you is that Henrik has won the monthly award three times (October, November, March), Luongo twice (January and February) and Kesler once (December). Our initial thought when picking Luongo mid-season (even though Henrik actually led the standings at the time of that blog) was we felt as good as Henrik had performed to that point, Luongo would be a difference most nights for Vancouver down the stretch. Let's just say we were right about that...but not so much in the way we thought it would work out.

Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.

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Nice job as always bro. Love reading your stuff. I'm a bit of a stats/numbers guy myself but definitely not as creative as you!

Keep up the good work.

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