April 14 2010 10:01AM
Will Roberto Luongo be ready for the playoffs? Will Jonathan Quick be able to handle the pressure? Will the Canucks defence hold up against the quick LA forwards? Will the Canucks forwards dominate puck possession?
Will the upstart Kings provide a first-round upset, or will the Canucks start a long playoff run which many are predicting?
We'll find out Thursday as the Canucks host the Kings in Game 1 of their first-round matchup.
The regular season series between the Canucks and the Kings is intriguing. For the first three games, which all occurred before Christmas, the Canucks dominated play, locked down the high-octane Kings' forwards, and won all three games with Jonathan Quick as the opposing goalie.
For their final game, on April 1st, the Canucks looked horrible. Roberto Luongo looked utterly lost. They could not control the Kings forwards at all and the Canucks lost miserably 8-3, with Jonathan Bernier as the opposing goalie.
Where the Canucks hold the edge:
1. Goaltending. Roberto Luongo is the better goalie, despite the worry spewing from Vancouver. He proved during the Olympics that he can lock it down when needed. Luongo will need to get his head into the games early though. He needs better starts to his game.
2. Forwards. The Canucks offense was the second-best in the league and while the Kings have some punch up front, they simply don't compare to the Canucks. Vancouver was the only team in the league with 6 25-goal scorers. Oh yeah, and the Canucks have the Art Ross trophy winner. That's right - Henrik Sedin. The Sedins scored 1.37 and 1.35 points per game EACH during the regular season.
3. The top seed. That means home-ice advantage. Again, while the Kings were the 2nd best road team with 24 wins, the Canucks were the 2nd best home team with 30 wins.
4. Wins after a loss. I know that regular season stats mean very little in the playoffs. But if you look down the stats for the Canucks and Kings, they are very, very similar across the board. This stat was the exception. The Canucks were 21-7-0 after a loss, while the Kings were 13-13-1 after a loss. That means that the Canucks showed time and time again that they could bounce back, while the Kings has a very tough time with that. That will be very important in the playoffs. The Canucks showed resilience all year long, coming back late in games, and coming back after a loss. This may be the deciding factor.
Where the Kings hold the edge:
1. Defense. The Kings are young, mobile and healthy on defense. While the Canucks led the league with points from the defense, they've also showed that they can be as pourous as lava rock. The Kings defense, led by Drew Doughty, is steady and confident. And that's what's needed in the playoffs. Most importantly, they're all healthy.
2. Rings. The Kings have 4 players that earned Stanley Cup rings recently. So while they have a young core of players, they have a group of players that have been to the dance and won. That experience will help a lot, if and when things get rough for the young Kings' players, and the veterans need to be the calming voice of reason.
Where they're even.
1. Special teams. The Canucks and Kings were almost identical in both penalty killing and power play
The Canucks will win if:
Roberto Luongo plays like he should and locks down the first period, the Canucks control the puck (especially in the offensive zone), and they watch the tape from their first three games this season to remember what they did right.
The Kings will win if:
Jonathan Quick forgets his games against Vancouver this season and steals games, the Kings defence stops the cycle, and the Kings offence sets the tone early in a game and scores early in the game.
I won't go on record with a prediction, because frankly my predictive capabilities are terrible. But the concensus appears to that the Canucks will win in 6 games.
Yahoo! Sports has four writers looking at the game, all picking the Canucks.
MSN Foxsports has the Kings in 7.
TSN, during their preview show last night, has a concensus pick of Vancouver in 6, despite Bob Mckenzie picking LA.
Sportsnet had a similar concenses last night, but select the Canucks in 7.