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Splitting Hairs: Canucks vs. Kings – Series Preview

Posted By Luke Mirza On Apr 14 2010 @ 12:46 am In Vancouver Canucks | 3 Comments

Series Preview

(3) Vancouver Canucks (103 pts) Vs. (6) Los Angeles Kings (101 pts)

Offense

By the numbers, Vancouver ranked #2 in the league with 3.27 Goals/Game for a grand total of 268 goals scored overall. Los Angeles ranked #9 with 2.82 Goals/Game and finished the year with 231 goals scored. Both teams obviously quite capable of putting the puck in the net and most recently the LA Kings walked all over the Orca’s with an 8 goal performance on April 1st.

The LA scoring primarily goes through Anze Kopitar and to a lesser extent Ryan Smyth. Smyth’s mid-season injury caused Kopitar to regress and the early surge of goals was tempered even after Smyth’s return. ‘Smitty’ for his part will be a major catalyst for the Kings and should cause some major problems for Roberto Luongo. During his days with the Oilers (not so much with the AV’s), he caused havoc in front of the net by using his excellent balance to screen the goalie without drawing interference penalties. Although Edmonton only once managed to really capitalize on Captain Canada with a trip to the finals, Smyth always increased his own performance in the post-season and expect nothing less this time. The Kings are top-heavy with two lines that can score and two lines that don’t, but the ones who don’t are aggressive and determined.

The Canucks on the other hand are bursting with scoring freshness and roll 4 lines with the greatest of ease. Coach Alain Vigneault has done a masterful job of getting the most out of his players this season and at any given time at least one of the top 3 lines will be on fire. The 4th line has been a bit of an issue all year but with forwards in abundance now it will be easier to find replacement bodies if anyone drops the ball.

Advantage: Canucks – Don’t expect Henrik and Daniel to be taking the series over, but the depth of the Canucks overall should give them the edge.

Defence

By the numbers, Vancouver was ranked #12 in Goals Allowed/Game at 2.66 and an overall of 218 goals. The Kings came in at #9 here also with 2.57 and an overall total of 211. Keep in mind the Canucks GA/G went up significantly post-Olympics as Luongo and the defence crumpled partially due to injuries and partially due to Luongo’s shaky play.

The Canuck defence is stretching to make sure it bends but doesn’t break during these playoffs. The leadership of this group has fallen to Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo but the guy who needs to step up is Kevin Bieksa. Since returning from injury he has read the play very well and if he chooses to bring back the aggression he has shown in the past it will be perfect timing.

LA’s D-Men are fast and will be ready to push the counter attack at every opportunity. The big story in LA this year was the outstanding play of Drew Doughty who showed the entire world what an incredible player he is at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The word ‘potential’ is no longer necessary in reference to Doughty but Jack Johnson can still be exploited as he is still replicating early-Dion Phaneuf hits that take him well out of position.

Advantage: Kings – In a perfect world Vancouver takes this section, but the injuries on the backend will give the Kings forwards plenty to exploit. It’s not an overwhelming edge but Holy Baumgartner do we have some injuries.

Goaltending

The chart below shows the similarity in stats between the two goalies:

Wins Losses OTL GAA SV %
Luongo VAN 40 22 4 2.57 0.913
Quick LAK 39 24 7 2.54 0.907

Neither goalie gave either team much confidence down the stretch but both are capable of excellent play. Johnny Quick failed to defeat the Canucks this season and the most recent Kings win over the Nucks had Jonathan Bernier between the pipes.

Everyone knows about Luongo’s struggles but the solution is simple: RESET. Last year’s ouster at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks clearly hurt him and this whole season felt like he was just waiting to get  back to the show. This is his chance to prove it was worth the wait and set the tone early with some confident play.

Advantage: Canucks – No Brainer! Their numbers may have been close but have faith that Bobby Lou will show up ready to rock. With the exception of last year’s Game #6 against the Hawks, Luongo has been very solid in the playoffs and it should continue. His late season play was the anomaly, not the other way around.

Special Teams

Again, close numbers:

PP PK
VAN 20.9 (6th) 81.6 (18th)
LAK 20.8 (7th) 80.3 (20th)

This won’t tell the story though, Vancouver’s penalty kill will no doubt be affected by the defensive injuries and the LA power-play will be able to take advantage. Luongo will have to do his best brick wall impression and Ryan Smyth makes that very difficult.

This will however be the area that the Sedin brothers will thrive in their cycle. LA doesn’t have any defenseman capable of shutting them down completely and their young players will no doubt find it tough to stay out of the box against the speed-racer Canucks. Pavol Demitra will be looked to on the PP to strengthen the attack and after years of playoff fading for him he needs to be at his Olympic best.

Advantage: Canucks – The Canucks penalty-killing group is very aggressive even without Ryan Johnson, as proven by their shorthanded tally’s during the regular season. The PP for both teams can be a nightmare to handle so this might be a wash. Give VanCity the edge based on experience alone.

Coaching

In his second full season with the Kings, Terry Murray has guided them to a great season. For a few years they had been on the cusp of being very strong playoff contenders and it finally came to fruition with a 101 point season in 2010. However, let’s not short change the 2007 Coach of the Year Alain Vigneault who for years was labelled as a guy who couldn’t guide an offense. Finally given the tools to succeed he has suddenly become a better coach (sense the sarcasm) than his many years in the game.

Advantage: Even – AV is good with the team, the fans and the media and he won’t make critical mistakes in judgement. Murray is much the same and he has been able to teach his younger group how to meet any challenge. They’re both experienced, tough coaches and will stand up for their squad in every battle.

X-Factor

Kings: Dustin Brown has never played a playoff game and the fortunes of the Kings rest on his broad shoulders. Brown is built for playoff hockey and shouldn’t disappoint but if he chokes the team may follow his lead.

Canucks: Look for Ryan Kesler to build up that hatred pretty quick against the Kings. Kesler feeds on the aggression of the other team and will be the constant spark-plug. Like Brown, his style of play is engineered to the playoffs and look to him to step up as one of the leaders of the team.

Prediction

Canucks in 5They were close in every statistical category all season, but the Canucks are looking to send a message this year that they can play with the big boys. The Kings are a very good team that lacks experience. Just hope the defence can go a game without someone pulling a Salo.

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