The Canucks are about to start what they hope will be a long and memorable Stanley Cup run. This is the 42nd chance for the Canucks to win the ultimate prize, and one of the best chances to actually get it done. But wait, before we get too ahead of ourselves, there’s a team by the name of the Los Angeles Kings standing in their way.
There has never been a team that has finished first in the NHL twice in a row that has received two harder first round playoff opponents. Last year they drew the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks while this year they drew the talented/gritty Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings are an underachieving team this year. After acquiring Mike Richards in the offseason, most expected them to win the Pacific division and be a force in the Western Conference. Instead, they weren’t able to finish ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes (!) and finished eighth.
What to Expect from the Kings
The Kings are a gritty team that doesn’t give up a lot of goals. While they have a lot of big names (Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown), they don’t score a lot of goals. It has been baffling to me as to why that is. They’re underachievers this year, but they have the potential to be very dangerous.
What to Expect from the Canucks
The changes that Mike Gillis has made to the Canucks roster this year allow them to matchup well against the Kings. The Canucks have more players that can play a bruising style, in games that are low scoring. They also have four lines that can hurt you, which will test the depth of the Kings.
What Scares Me
If the skilled players on the Kings figure it out. If the Kings can score in this series, it will be very difficult for Vancouver because the Kings are awesome defensively. I’m also a little worried about Willie Mitchell shutting down the Sedins (assuming that Daniel plays, which perhaps isn’t a safe assumption). Mitchell was made for the playoffs and his long stick and familiarity of the Sedins tendencies makes him a tough matchup for Daniel and Henrik. While we’re on the subject, I’m terrified if Daniel Sedin misses a lot of time, because ultimately they’re going to need him.
What Doesn’t Scare Me
What Should Scare the Kings
The depth of the Canucks. The Canucks have three defensive pairs and four lines that can hurt you. When the Kings’ third defense pair is on the ice with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen or Ryan Kesler and David Booth, how will they fare? They should also be scared of the Canucks’ power play. I know the power play hasn’t been the same weapon as in the past for the Canucks, but it still has the potential to heat up. Assistant coach Newell Brown also has a full three days to come up with a new wrinkle, and expect that to be present for game 1.
What I’m wondering
When will we see Daniel Sedin? Will we see Cory Schneider? What will it take for Schneider to get a look? Will Alex Edler return to ‘playoff Edler’ form (you know, the guy who just rocks opposing forwards all over the ice). Will the Canucks have trouble scoring? And of course, will Roberto Luongo be solid in every game?
I think the Canucks are the better team, and I think they’ll win the series. The Kings are a different team than the one Vancouver faced in the playoffs two years ago, but so are the Canucks. The Kings have goalie that can steal games for them and they also have some offensive players that could break out. But will they? The Canucks have the depth, experience and talent, and should take this series in 6 games. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but they should come out on top. Just like they did in 2010.