Tale of the Tape: Canucks vs. Kings
A breakdown of the Western Conference Quarterfinal between the Canucks and Kings.
|Team record: 49-28-5
Conf. seeding: 3rd
Season series: 3-1-0
Last meeting: 3-8 L (APR.01.10)
|Team record: 46-27-9
Conference seeding: 6th
Season series: 1-2-1
Last meeting: 8-3 W (APR.01.10)
With the possible exception of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, there was no event circled on Roberto Luongo's calendar at the start of the season that he was looking more forward to than the start of the NHL playoffs. The Canucks' captain has waited 11 months to get a chance to erase the memories of his last post-season appearance when he gave up seven goals on just 30 shots in a 7-5 loss to the Blackhawks at the United Center last May. The 31-year-old finished the regular season with some of his worst career numbers since his final season in Florida but has the advantage of being a much more experienced player in big game situations compared to this time last season after he led Canada to an Olympic Gold medal back in February.
The Montreal, QC native appeared in three games against the Kings this season posting a 2-1-0 record with a 3.34 GAA and a .884 save percentage. His career playoff numbers are clearly more impressive. He has posted an 11-11 record in post-season play with a 2.09 GAA and a .930 save percentage along with one shutout.
Jonathan Quick has set several team records this season including most appearances by a Kings' netminder in a single season with 72 and most wins in a single season with 39 but there are plenty of question marks surrounding him as he prepares to make his NHL playoff debut. The 24-year-old, whose lone professional playoff appearance on record came with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs in 2008, struggled down the stretch of the regular season. His last victory came over three weeks ago on March 22 in Colorado. Since then, he has started eight games posting a 0-3-3 record while being pulled twice.
The Milford, CT native, who was a part of the USA's Silver medal victory at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (although he did not see any game action during the tournament), failed to record a win against the Canucks during the regular season this year. He posted a record of 0-2-1 in three appearances versus Vancouver with a 2.29 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
There are few who would argue the fact the Canucks have more balanced scoring than the Kings. Vancouver, who finished with 268 goals in the regular season excluding shootout totals (37 more than the Kings), have three legitimate scoring lines with the Sedin brothers and Alex Burrows comprising the first unit, Ryan Kesler anchoring a second unit with veteran and consistent point producers Pavol Demitra and Mikael Samuelsson, and a third line unit that includes the resurgent Kyle Wellwood and a 25-goal scorer in Mason Raymond.
The Kings will rely mostly on their number one line of Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams to lead the way offensively. The trio showed a lot of early season chemistry before injuries to Smyth and Williams necessitated some line juggling. After that, they'll need to get some production from streaky scorers such as Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov.
Blue-line scoring is also a strong possibility. The Kings are led by a pair of young studs in Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson but don't have as much depth as Vancouver does as far as scoring defencemen go after the top two. Vancouver counters with a pair of 40-plus point producers in Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler to go with Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa, both of whom have shown a penchant for being able to score big goals in the past.
The two teams finished tied in the regular season series with 11 goals each, but eight of Los Angeles' markers came in one contest.
As far as goals against go in the regular season, the two teams were virtually deadlocked with Los Angeles edging out Vancouver slightly by surrendering seven fewer goals over the 82-game grind (211 vs 218).
The Canucks, it could be argued, were the more consistent team defensively during the regular season series giving up just a single goal in each of the first three games prior to their forgettable 8-3 loss on April 1. The Kings, meanwhile, gave up at least three goals per game in each of the last three meetings of the season series.
Most of the focus in this series as far as shutting down the opposition's offence will be on the netminders in Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick. Neither have had particular strong finishes to the regular season with Luongo having surrendered three-or-more goals in eight of his final 10 contests (4-4-2) while Quick having given up three-or-more goals in seven of his last nine outings and with a personal win-less streak of six-games (0-3-3) heading into the playoffs.
Both the Canucks and Kings have fielded strong power play units this season with Vancouver's 20.9 percent efficiency rate (68 goals on 325 power play opportunities ) barely edging out Los Angeles' 20.8 percent efficiency rate (64 goals on 307 opportunities).
The Kings have all the tools to trot out a very simple, but effective power play with a smart shooter from the point (i.e. Drew Doughty with nine PPGs this season), a big body presence in front of the net (i.e. Ryan Smyth - 11 PPGs this season), and a crafty winger who can make plays and direct traffic from the side boards (i.e. Anze Kopitar - 14 PPGs).
Vancouver's power play, despite sitting near the top of the League the entire season, is as enigmatic as their netminder has been in recent contests. While the usual suspects such as the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler can be found, surprising omissions from regular power play time include leading goal-scorer Alex Burrows and, recently, Mason Raymond, who tied for second on the team with eight power play markers. The Canucks' power play has connected just two times on 15 opportunities in the season series while the Kings' man-advantage has connected twice on 17 chances overall.
As far as penalty killing goes, both teams sit middle of the pack in the NHL with Vancouver again holding a slight edge at 81.6 percent effectiveness (59 PPGs allowed on 320 times short-handed) versus an 80.3 percent effectiveness (60 PPGs allowed on 304 times short-handed) for the Kings.
Given that the teams have had similar numbers throughout the entire season, you can give the edge to Los Angeles based on available personnel. Vancouver has played nearly half the season without their top shutdown blue-liner in Willie Mitchell and recently lost the services of the defensive specialist Ryan Johnson with a broken foot. The Kings, meanwhile, are about as healthy as any team can be after an 82-game regular season.
The Northwest Division Champions Vancouver Canucks (49-28-5) will open the playoffs facing an upstart, young team in the Los Angeles Kings (46-27-9) who are hoping to prove that age is only a number and will be looking to pull off an upset in their first trip back to the post-season since 2002.
The Canucks may be the favoured team coming in but this series is far from your typical 3-vs-6 match-up. The Canucks, with 103 points in the regular season, finished just two points ahead of the Kings. To put that in perspective, the 4-vs-5 match-up in the Western Conference between the Coyotes and Red Wings features opponents that are separated by five points in the standings.
L.A. has a lot of skill up front and we will have to look out for that but they have a young goalie and a young defence, too. So I think we have to use that to our advantage." - Daniel Sedin sizing up Vancouver's first round opponent.
The Canucks were victorious during the regular season series against the Kings taking three of the four meetings but the Kings were the ones to get the last laugh embarrassing Vancouver by an 8-3 score in their most recent meeting on April 1.
This year's playoff series will mark the fourth time that the Canucks and Kings have faced each other in a post-season series and the first time since the 1993 Smythe Division Final that they will do battle in a playoff match-up.
The Kings have taken two of the three all-time playoff series between the two clubs - besting Vancouver in the 1991 Smythe Division Semi-Final as well as the aforementioned 1993 Smythe Division Final. Vancouver defeated Los Angeles the first time the two teams met in a playoff series - the 1982 Smythe Division Final. Los Angeles holds a 9-8 wins lead in all-time playoff games between the two teams out-scoring the Canucks 66-60.
In two of the previous three playoff meetings between the Canucks and Kings, the winner has ultimately gone on to play in the Stanley Cup Final: the 1982 Vancouver Canucks and the 1993 Los Angeles Kings.
THE COMFORTS OF HOME
Home ice figures to be one of the Canucks' biggest keys to success considering they were the only Western Conference playoff team to finish with a below .500 record away from home (19-20-2) while they were spectacular on home ice posting a record of 30-8-3.
The opposite can be said about the Kings, who tied for the League lead in road victories going 24-14-3 away from the Staples Center while finishing with the fewest home wins among all Western Conference playoff teams with a record of 22-13-6 in front of their home fans.
Home ice was protected fairly well by the two teams during the regular season series. The Canucks won both games played at GM Place and while Vancouver also managed the lone road victory in the season series, it should be noted that the win - a 2-1 shootout victory back on October 29, 2009 - came in a contest that the Kings dominated in nearly every aspect with the exception of the scoreboard.
"They're going to get a real taste of playoff hockey right away, a bunch of guys that have never been there. You go to a Canadian city, it's not just the team you're playing against." - Kings Coach Terry Murray on learning on-the-fly with his inexperienced squad.
Most of the players that are part of this year's Canucks squad were members of last year's team that advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Final before bowing out to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Kings, on the other hand, have as many as 20 players on the current active roster that could be making their playoff debuts in this series.
Samuelsson is the lone Canuck on the active roster with a Stanley Cup victory under his belt having won in 2008 with the Detroit Red Wings. (Note: Aaron Rome was a member of the 2006 Stanley Cup Champions Anaheim Ducks but played just one playoff game that season for them).
The Kings have four players on their roster that have won a Stanley Cup: Rob Scuderi (Pittsburgh), Justin Williams (Carolina), Fredrik Modin (Tampa Bay) and Sean O'Donnell (Anaheim).
All games in the first round series between the Canucks and the Kings can be seen by Canadian viewers coast-to-coast on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. Additionally, for viewers in the United States, Games 1-4 as well as Game 6 (if necessary) can be seen on VERSUS. Check local listings, Canucks.com or NHL.com for updated TV schedules as the playoffs progress.
Game Notes on Canucks.com are written by Daniel Fung. Fung covered the Canucks for PA SportsTicker from 2007 to 2009 and also covered the Men's Ice Hockey tournament at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games for the Olympic News Service. Read his weekly Number Crunching blog on Fanzone
2009.10 Regular Season vs. Kings
2009.10 Regular Season vs. Canucks
For the Canucks...
D Shane O'Brien, D Aaron Rome, and D Sami Salo were all absent from the final regular season game due to respective undisclosed injuries. C Ryan Johnson (broken foot), D Willie Mitchell (concussion) and C Alex Bolduc (shoulder) are on the injured reserve list.
For the Kings...
2 – Career playoff points for Kings' defenceman Sean O'Donnell (2-0-2), the franchise's leading active playoff points leader entering this series. O'Donnell is the only current King to have played in a post-season game for that franchise.
3 – Appearances in the Stanley Cup Final between the Canucks (1982, 1994) and Kings (1993) combined. Neither team has won a Stanley Cup in franchise history.
11 – Wins for the Canucks during the regular season when appearing on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada (11-2-2). All of Vancouver's first round playoff games can be watched on Hockey Night in Canada.
17 – All-time games played between the Canucks and Kings in the NHL playoffs. The Kings hold a slight advantage winning nine of the 17 all-time playoff meetings between the two teams.
30 – Career playoff points for 2010 Art Ross Trophy winner Henrik Sedin (14-16-30), the Canucks' leading active playoff points leader entering this series.
34 – All-time playoff series the Kings have been involved in. Los Angeles has a 11-2 series record all-time.
34 – All-time playoff series the Canucks have been involved in. Vancouver has a 12-22 series record all-time.
170 – All-time playoff games for the Kings franchise entering this series. The Kings have an all-time record of 65-105 in the post-season.
177 – All-time playoff games for the Canucks franchise entering this series. The Canucks have an all-time record of 77-100 in the post-season.
The Kings return to the playoffs this season marks the end of a six-season absence (seven years including the lockout) from the NHL post-season - their longest in team history.
Los Angeles' previous high for consecutive seasons without playoffs prior to this current run was four - a dubious feat they had suffered through twice.
The Kings missed the playoffs four seasons in a row from 1970 to 1973 inclusive, and again from 1994 to 1997 inclusive.
Prior to this season, the Kings last qualified for the playoffs in 2002. That year, the Kings matched up against the Avalanche in the first round and managed to force a seventh-and-deciding game after falling behind 3-1 in the series but would go on to lose the final contest by a 4-0 score.