The moment Canucks fans have been waiting for all season is almost upon us. That’s right, round 1, game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canucks faceoff against the Kings in what promises to be an entertaining series. Lets see how the series breaks down.
This is the fourth time that the Canucks and Kings have met in the playoffs. The Canucks won in 5 games back in 1982, while the Kings won in 6 games in 1991 and 1993. Interestingly enough, two of those three series came in years in which the Canucks (1982) and Kings (1993) had miraculous runs to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Canucks won the season series 3 games to 1. Of course, the one Kings win was the most recent and the most lopsided, winning 8-3 on April 1st.
At first glance, Roberto Luongo vs Jonathan Quick is a lopsided matchup. Further analysis shows that they posted similar numbers this year though. Luongo posted a GAA of 2.57 and .913 SV% compared to Quick’s GAA of 2.54 and .907 SV%. Luongo is entering his third postseason and apart from the Chicago series last season, he has been a spectacular playoff performer. Conversely, Quick has never played a playoff game.
Once considered the Canucks’ strength, it is now their biggest wild card. The loss of Willie Mitchell is huge. Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Shane O’Brien and Aaron Rome are all banged up but are probably healthy enough to play. Kevin Bieksa is a key member of the blueline, considering he has the potential to be their top defender but has brought very little to the table this season.
The Kings have an underrated defense that boasts a nice mix of youthful skill (Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson) and veteran savvy (Rob Scuderi, Sean O’Donnell). Doughty is the clear #1 defenseman for the Kings, averaging 25 minutes of ice time per game.
The Canucks have arguably one of the best lines in league, a strong second line anchored by Selke Trophy candidate Ryan Kesler and third line with talent and potential to score. By comparison, the Kings also have a lot of scoring depth. Ten Kings forwards scored in double digits this season, lead by Anze Kopitar with 34 goals. While known for their kids, don’t forget about their veterans up front, notably Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams. Look for Kesler’s line to be matched-up against Kopitar as much as possible. You can also bet there’ll be a fair amount of trash talking going on there.
The Canucks will win if: Luongo plays better than Quick and they hold their own on the penalty kill.
The Kings will win if: Quick can match the play of Luongo and the Kings forwards can pound the Canucks defensemen.
Prediction: The Canucks should prevail but it won’t be easy. I don’t think that the Kings inexperience will hurt them like some are predicting. They have enough veteran leadership and enough talent to give the Canucks a real test. Look for Luongo to step up his game and the Canucks to win in 6.