These guys have done this before: the last time they met in the playoffs, it was two seasons ago. The Vancouver Canucks tallied 103 points and won the Northwest Division title, while the Los Angeles Kings wrapped up their own tidy 101-point effort. It was a close series then, with the Canucks taking it in six games after L.A. jumped out to a two-games-to-one lead. This time promises to be even closer.
Much is being made of Jonathan Quick’s contribution to the Kings’ overall effort this season, and he deserves every accolade. You know you’ve got something special when he can beat Mr. Consistency, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, in goals-against average and shutouts. This season, Quick finished ahead of Lundqvist and just behind Brian Elliot of St. Louis with a 1.95 GAA. The 26-year-old Connecticut native also led the league in shutouts with 10.
The Canucks counter with Roberto Luongo, who has been the subject of much derision for his inconsistent performances. It’s been widely speculated that Luongo will have a very short leash, and head coach Alain Vigneault could be quicker with the hook to put in rising start Cory Schneider should Louongo falter.
Jeff Carter says he’s ready to pick it up for the Kings, and they’re going to need him. Los Angeles ranked second-last in total goals, which makes sense because head coach Darryl Sutter has them playing a more defensive style. As a result, L.A. is second in goals against while the Canucks are fourth.
Drew Doughty leads that defensive corps, and Willie Mitchell is still useful. However, the Kings’ blueline simply doesn’t have thr depth of their opponents, especially after they traded Jack Johnson to Columbus to reunite Carter with his former Flyer teammate Mike Richards.
Daniel Sedin will not be available to the Canucks for Game 1 of the series, and possibly longer. Normally that would be an ominous sign, but Vancouver put together an eight-game streak at the end of the regular season where they won seven of those games without the services of their top goal-scorer. Of course, only one of those games was against a playoff-bound team, so it remains to be seen whether they can afford to have the big Swedish forward out of their lineup for long.
One area where the Canucks have a decided advantage is depth. The Kings really have only one top line on offense, while the scoring is spread throughout the Canucks lineup. While Carter says he’s ready to go, there’s no telling how much he’s recovered from his deep bone bruise. The Kings also will be without grinding forward Brad Richardson, who had an emergency appendectomy the other day.
The NHL futures betting has the Canucks winning the Western Conference and rated just behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup chase. The prop bets and the NHL betting line for Game 1 calls for a series of tightly-played contests. This could very easily go seven games with several being decided by a single goal, but the Canucks should prevail. If they don’t, they will have been beaten by one of the best goalies in the game today.