Western Playoff PreviewMonday, April 09, 2012
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Click here to read Corey Abbott's Eastern Conference preview.
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs (8) Los Angeles Kings
Both these teams are nursing some significant injuries going into this series. In Vancouver, Daniel Sedin is out with a concussion something that’s obviously very hard to put a timetable on. However, the Kings might be without Jeff Carter (ankle) in addition to Simon Gagne (concussion), the latter who hasn’t played since December and doesn’t seem to be close to returning.
Which team gets their injured players back in the fold first will be a factor in the series, but you have to like the Vancouver Canucks’ chances, regardless. Even if you ignore the gap in their regular season records, Vancouver’s offensive depth is very impressive. As a team they finished first in the Western Conference with 249 goals, despite having only one 30-goal scorer and just three players that surpassed the 20-goal mark.
By contrast, the Kings have had trouble scoring goals all season. They have just five players who netted 10 or more goals and none that surpassed the 25-goal mark. Even Mike Richards has been lackluster in his first season with the Kings, scoring just 18 goals and 44 points in 74 games.
Vancouver also has one of the best goaltending tandems in the league in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Luongo is expected to be the team’s starting goaltender in game one, but Schneider has outperformed him – not to mention most of the NHL – this season, so Luongo might be on something of a short leash.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Kings’ greatest strength has to be netminder Jonathan Quick, who should be a Vezina Trophy contender after posting a 35-21-13 record, 1.95 GAA, and .930 save percentage in the regular season. Quick held Vancouver to just seven goals in four contests this season.
If the Los Angeles Kings are to pull off an upset, it will be mainly due to Quick. However, I think the Canucks advantage both in scoring depth and star power, combined with the strength of their own goaltending, will ultimately result in them dismissing the Kings in five games.
Keep in mind all line combinations could be changed on a shift-by-shift basis as coaches try to adapt on the fly during this intense post-season series:
Max Lapierre-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows Chris Higgins-Ryan Kesler-David Booth Andrew Ebbett-Samuel Pahlsson-Jannik Hansen Manny Malhotra-Byron Bitz-Dale Weise
Alex Edler-Dan Hamhuis Chris Tanev-Kevin Bieksa Sami Salo-Aaron Rome
Roberto Luongo Cory Schneider
As well as Henrik Sedin is playing alongside his twin brother Daniel, he seems to be just as effective on his own. Henrik has a goal and 11 points in nine contests since Daniel suffered a concussion. Alexandre Burrows is going into the playoffs riding a five-game point streak. He has four goals and six points in that span.
David Booth has been held to just one point in his final 11 regular season contests. Ryan Kesler hasn't scored a goal since March 14 and he only has two points in his last 12 games.
The Vancouver Canucks have won the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight season. However, the Presidents' Trophy winner has only won the Stanley Cup in one of the previous eight seasons.
Keith Ballard and, of course, Daniel Sedin are both dealing with concussions. Zack Kassian is day-to-day because of an upper body injury.
Vancouver has an NHL-best .429 winning percentage when trailing after one period.
Brad Richardson-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown Dwight King-Mike Richards-Justin Williams Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Jordan Nolan
Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov Alec Martinez-Matt Greene
Jonathan Quick Jonathan Bernier
Anze Kopitar has been great all season, but he's been particularly dominant lately with a goal and 11 points in his last six games. Dustin Brown has three goals and seven points in six contests going into the playoffs.
Can a cold streak last an entire season? Dustin Penner has gone from recording 63 points in 2009-10 to just 17 points in 65 contests this season. He's been even worse lately with just two goals and four points in his last 23 games.
This will be the second time in three years the Kings will face the Vancouver Canucks in the first round. They lost in six games in their 2010 series.
The Kings’ big mid-season acquisition, Jeff Carter, is day-to-day with an ankle injury. On top of that, Simon Gagne does not appear to be close to returning from a concussion.
Los Angeles will be trying to win their first playoff series since 2001 when they defeated their first round opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, in six games. Back then, Ziggy Palffy, Luc Robitaille, Mathieu Schneider, and Rob Blake were among the team's biggest stars.