Tale of the Tape: Canucks vs. Kings 2012
|Team record: 51-22-9
Conf. seeding: 1st
Season series: 2-1-1
Last meeting: 1-0 W (MAR.26.12)
|Team record: 40-27-15
Conf. seeding: 8th
Season series: 2-2-0
Last meeting: 0-1 L (MAR.26.12)
Year after year it seems the biggest spotlight on the Canucks heading into the playoffs has always shone directly on Roberto Luongo. That won't change this year. All eyes will once again be on the 33-year-old netminder who heads into these playoffs seemingly on a much shorter leash than ever before with Vancouver also having a very capable back-up in Cory Schneider. The drop in Luongo's numbers this season compared to last (his GAA increased from 2.11 to 2.41 while his save percentage fell from .928 to .919) might also be a cause for concern for some in Canucks Nation although as far as Luongo is concerned the only number that matters this spring is 'one' ñ as in finding a way to get one more win than he managed during last season's playoff run.
Luongo's overall numbers this season might not seem too impressive but his numbers against the Kings this year have definitely been. He started all four games in the season series versus Los Angeles posting a 2-1-1 record with a 1.96 GAA and a .944 save percentage. He also shutout the Kings in the most recent head-to-head meeting on March 26 making 38 saves that night in a 1-0 victory. Luongo comes into this year's playoffs with an all-time record of 32-27 with a 2.50 GAA and a .917 save percentage along with five shutouts.
If the Kings have a reason to feel confident heading into this series against the top team in the NHL, it's because of the player they have between the pipes. The 2011.12 season might not have been a dream season for the Kings but it certainly has been for Jonathan Quick who has simply been sensational this year and is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy. The 26-year-old, who this year became the first Kings netminder to record 30-win seasons in three straight campaigns, has the best GAA among all NHL netminders who have played at least half of their team's games this season at 1.95 while he has also posted a career-best .929 save percentage this season. He also leads the league in shutouts with 10 - only the 30th netminder in NHL history to accomplish that feat.
Quick's numbers against the Canucks this season have been even more eye-popping than the ones he has posted overall this season. He started all four games in the season series versus Vancouver posting a 2-2-0 record with a 1.73 GA and a .941 save percentage. This year will mark just Quick's third foray into the NHL post-season. He has appeared in just 12 career playoff games posting a 4-8 record with a 3.32 GAA and a .900 save percentage to go along with one shutout.
Vancouver wasn't quite as dominant this season on offense compared to last year but still finished with the fifth-most goals in the entire league scoring a total of 241 - tied with the Blackhawks for most among all Western Conference teams - for an average of 2.94 goals per game. Los Angeles is on the opposite side of the fence finishing with the second-worst offense in the league scoring just 188 total goals for an average of 2.29 goals per game.
As far as the season series was concerned, however, it was the Kings that actually emerged as the more proficient team on offense out-scoring Vancouver by a slim 8-7 count.
The Canucks have to be pleased with the way their offense finished the regular season as they tallied a combined 17 goals over their final five outings (an average of 3.40 goals per game) albeit all five of those games happened to come against teams that ultimately finished outside of the playoff picture.
The Kings' offense hasn't been too shabby either for the better part of the last month. In the 13 games for the Kings dating back to March 13, they've scored three-or-more goals in eight of those outings while tallying a combined 39 goals for an average of 3.00 goals per game.
Vancouver's biggest concern on offense to start the series will be whether or not they will have leading goal-scorer Daniel Sedin available to them. Sedin has not played since March 21 in Chicago when he was concussed by a cheap-shot elbow from the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith. Sedin happens to be Vancouver's leading point-scorer against the Kings this season notching four points (1-3-4) in three games played.
Daniel's availability would have a trickle-down effect on the entire lineup. Should he play, he is expected to be back on a unit alongside Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows. His spot lately has been filled in by the likes of Maxim Lapierre and Andrew Ebbett.
Los Angeles has their own injury concerns as well involving one of their top offensive stars in Jeff Carter who missed the final five games of the regular season with an ankle injury. The Kings certainly didn't seem to notice Carter's absence much in those five games piling up 16 combined goals without him. With Carter out, Coach Darryl Sutter's top two lines have been Kopitar-Richardson-Brown and Richards-Williams-King. If and when Carter returns, it's likely he'll be slotted right back onto a unit alongside former Flyers teammate Mike Richards.
Both teams also have a number of offensive threats from the back end as well with Vancouver being led by the Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo who have a combined 28 goals this season while Los Angeles will rely primarily on Drew Doughty who had 10 goals this season as well as the likes of rookie Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez who had eight and six tallies, respectively.
Few teams in the entire league were as intimidating on defense as the Kings this season who surrendered just 170 goals this season for an average of 2.07 goals against per game. Only the St. Louis Blues gave up fewer goals this season with 155.
To put those numbers into perspective, last season when the Canucks finished as the top defensive team in the league they gave up 180 goals.
Both teams come into the post-season with a relatively healthy defensive corps, respectively. Vancouver has eight of their top-nine defensemen ready to go for the start of the playoffs with the lone exception being Keith Ballard who continues to recover from a concussion. Ballard, however, has been practicing with the team lately and could be an option when this series opens. Los Angeles has no reported injuries among the seven defensemen they are currently carrying.
The Canucks will likely feed the Kings' top line a steady dose of Dan Hamhuis and, if the final regular season game is any indication, second-year blue-liner Christopher Tanev. The pairing of Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler will also see a fair amount of ice-time albeit the Canucks would like to see them more engaged at the offensive end of the ice as opposed to being a pure shutdown unit. Vancouver's final pairing is likely to consist of Sami Salo and Aaron Rome.
For the Kings, they'll most likely utilize the pairing of ex-Canuck Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov to go up against Vancouver's top offensive unit although the duo of Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi should see the bulk of the ice-time overall. Rounding out the Kings' top-six defense are Alec Martinez and Matt Greene.
As far as the power play is concerned, the Canucks finished the regular season as one of the top teams with the man-advantage converting at 19.8 percent (57 goals on 288 opportunities) but did have a bit of a stumble to close out the regular season. Prior to their 2-for-7 performance against the Oilers in their final regular season outing, the Canucks managed just one power play goal on 23 opportunities over the six games leading up to their last contest.
The Kings, on the other hand, were middle of the pack in the NHL converting 17.0 percent of their total opportunities (49 goals on 289 opportunities) but were red hot with the man-advantage to close out the season scoring eight goals on 22 chances over their final five games. Six of their seven goals to close out the regular season - all against the San Jose Sharks - came on the power play.
The penalty kill to close out the season for the Kings, however, wasn't so much a positive. Over those same five outings, Los Angeles allowed five power play goals on 19 times shorthanded (73.7 percent kill rate) which is uncharacteristic for the team that finished with the fourth-best penalty killing in the entire NHL (best among all Western Conference teams) killing off 87.0 percent of all opposition man-advantages (38 PPGs allowed on 293 times shorthanded).
The Canucks, whose penalty kill proficiency wasn't far behind that of the Kings' finishing sixth-best in the league killing off 86.0 percent of opposition man-advantages (40 goals allowed on 286 times shorthanded) ended the regular season on a better note.
Vancouver gave up only two power play goals on 20 times shorthanded (90.0 percent kill rate) over their final seven games of the regular season albeit.
As far as the head-to-head season series goes, the teams were fairly evenly matched with the Canucks clicking three times on 18 power play opportunities (16.7 percent conversion rate) while the Kings countered with three power play goals of their own on 16 opportunities (18.8 percent conversion rate).
For the Vancouver Canucks (51-22-9) to have a Hollywood ending to this year's playoffs, they will first have to get by the team from Hollywood as they will battle the Los Angeles Kings (40-27-15) for the fifth time in franchise history and the second time in the last three years in the first round of these playoffs.
The Canucks and Kings are much further apart in the standings this year compared to the last time they met back in 2010. That year, Vancouver finished just two points ahead of Los Angeles in the regular season standings whereas this year there is a 16-point gap between the clubs.
They've played a good defensive game all year but they've struggled a bit offensively. Will it be a low scoring series? That's possible. We'll see what happens. Whatever it takes as long as get more goals than them - Samuel Pahlsson sizing up the Kings.
The teams split the regular season series wining two games apiece - one each at home and on the road. The Canucks officially earned the win in the season series, however, thanks to an extra point from a shootout loss at Rogers Arena back on January 12. Three of the four games in the season series have been decided by a single goal with the lone exception being a 4-1 win for the Kings back on New Year's Eve at the Staples Center.
This series will mark the fifth time that the Canucks and Kings have met each other in the post-season and the third time they have done so in the opening round.
Vancouver won the very first playoff series versus Los Angeles back in 1982 as well as the most recent playoff battle in 2010. Los Angeles won the two meetings sandwiched in between in 1991 and 1993.
Both teams can also claim to have a series against one another that propelled them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
In 1982, the Canucks took out the Kings 4-1 in the Smythe Division Final and then went on to beat Blackhawks in the Campbell Conference Championship to earn the franchise's first trip to the Cup Final where they would fall in four straight games to the powerhouse New York Islanders.
In 1993, led by the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri and Rob Blake, the Kings scored a 4-2 series win over the Canucks in the second round of the playoffs and then went on to beat Maple Leafs in the Conference Final to earn that franchise's first and only trip to the Stanley Cup Final to date. They ended losing in five games to the Montreal Canadiens in the Cup Final.
THE FIRST STEP IS THE HARDEST
The Canucks have advanced past the opening round in each of their last four trips to the playoffs but they still know better than to count their chickens before the eggs hatch.
In last year's opening round, the Canucks looked to be home and cooled after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead over the Blackhawks only to watch Chicago claw all the way back and force overtime in Game 7 before Alexandre Burrows finally put the series to bed with his now-infamous 'dragon slaying' goal.
Vancouver was handed a similarly rough ride in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs by these same Kings who took a 2-1 series lead after dropping the first game at Rogers Arena and came within an eyelash of winning Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead before a furious third period rally by Vancouver in that contest allowed them to square the series and eventually go on to win it in six games.
They are similar to the Sharks to be quite honest. They have really good offenses, really good power plays. We'll have our hands full - Kings head coach Darryl Sutter on the challenge posed by the Canucks.
The Kings, meanwhile, are looking to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001 - the year they staged a comeback from a 2-0 series deficit against the Red Wings to win 4-2.
Los Angeles has made three playoff appearances since then losing in the first round each time. Last season, they fell 4-2 to the San Jose Sharks in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Canucks boast 19 players on their roster who were a part of their run to last year's Stanley Cup Final, and also have one Stanley Cup ring belonging to Samuel Pahlsson who played a significant role in the Anaheim Ducks' run to the championship back in 2007.
They will have at least one player make his playoff debut in this series in David Booth, and could have up to three more depending on the team's health situation in Zack Kassian, Dale Weise and Aaron Volpatti.
The Kings have 15 returning players who were part of the squad that lost in the opening round of the playoffs last year to the Sharks (16 if you count back-up netminder Jonathan Bernier who did not see any action) but they did upgrade their overall playoff experience significantly in the form of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, both who played key parts in leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Another key member of that 2010 Flyers squad, Simon Gagne, is also a member of the Kings this season but is not expected to play due to a concussion.
Games 1-4 in this series can be seen by viewers coast-to-coast in Canada on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. For viewers in the United States, Games 1-4 can be seen on the NBC Sports Network. The television schedule for Games 5-7 will be confirmed at a later time. Please check Canucks.com and NHL.com for updated television schedules. Listen to every Vancouver Canucks playoff game live on the TEAM 1040 Sports Radio or online at teamradio.ca.
Those away from a TV or radio can follow @CanucksGame on Twitter for live in-game play-by-play.
Game Notes on Canucks.com are written by Daniel Fung. Follow him on Twitter @daniel_fung or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2011.12 Regular Season vs. Kings
2011.12 Regular Season vs. Canucks
For the Canucks...
F Zack Kassian (upper body) and F Daniel Sedin (concussion) are questionable to start the series. D Keith Ballard (concussion) and F Aaron Volpatti (shoulder surgery) are on the injured reserve list to begin the series but could both return at some point.
For the Kings...
F Jeff Carter (bone bruise in ankle) is questionable to start the series. F Simon Gagne (concussion) and F Scott Parse (hip surgery) are on the injured reserve list and neither is expected to play.
1 – Stanley Cup Final appearance for the Kings in franchise history (1993).
3 – Stanley Cup Final appearances for the Canucks in franchise history (1982, 1994 and 2011).
5th – Playoff series meeting between the Canucks and Kings.
10 – Wins for the Canucks this season when appearing on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada (10-3-2). Every game in this series is expected to be available on CBC.
11 – Career playoff points for Drew Doughty (5-6-11) entering this series, the most in franchise history among active Kings.
37th – All-time playoff series the Kings have been involved in. Los Angeles has a 11-25 all-time record in playoff series.
41st – All-time playoff series the Canucks have been involved in. Vancouver has a 16-24 all-time record in playoff series.
66 – Career playoff points for Henrik Sedin (20-46-66) entering this series, the most in franchise history among active Canucks.
For just the sixth time in NHL history since the Presidents' Trophy was introduced back in 1985.86, a team has won the award in consecutive playing seasons after the Canucks' clinched the title for the second straight year with their 3-0 win over the Oilers to close out the regular season.
Winning the Presidents' Trophy didn't help the Canucks capture the ultimate prize last year but they'll have some more history on their side this time around. The previous five times that a team came off a season that saw them win their second consecutive Presidents' Trophy title, they went on to win the Stanley Cup that same year (1987 Oilers, 1989 Flames and 1999 Stars).
The only team that failed to win the Stanley Cup after winning the Presidents' Trophy for the second consecutive season is the Detroit Red Wings. They lost in the Conference Final in 1996 and, most recently, were upset in the first round by the Oilers in 2006. The Red Wings, however, are the last Presidents' Trophy winners to take home the Stanley Cup. They did so in 2008 beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
The Red Wings are the only team in NHL history to win back-to-back Presidents' Trophy feat on two separate occasions.