March 31 2011 11:36AM
Let's hope Mason Raymond can find his scoring touch again. Time is running out before the playoffs start.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America)
Game Day Recon #78 - Kings @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks return home after their club record ninth straight road victory. In the process, they set new club records for points and wins and claimed the #1 seed in the Western Conference. With five games left, they have little left for which to play, except one final regular season achievement.
Tonight, the Vancouver Canucks could win the President's Trophy for the NHL's best regular season record. And what better way to do it than on home ice.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
Sure, the Los Angeles Kings are in a playoff spot that they are highly unlikely to relinquish. But they're on tough times right now. In the span of 5 days, the Kings lost their two leading scorers to injury. First, Justin Williams went out 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury, then Anze Kopitar broke his ankle and is out for the rest of the season. Before Williams and Kopitar went out with injury, the Kings weren't exactly a profilic scoring team. In fact, amongst the 8 current Western Conference playoff teams, they were ahead of only Nashville for goals-for.
As a result the Kings called up Oscar Moller from their AHL affiliate in Manchester, NH. Moller is hardly the goal scoring answer that the Kings need, but he is one of he few options they have. Moller has played 81 NHL games, essentially the equivalent of 1 full NHL season. In that time, he has 12G 14A 26Pts and is -6. Not exactly lighting the NHL scoring table on fire.
The test for the Kings will be to see if they can let their defense win games. That is going to be a steep test against the Canucks, currently the league's best and hottest team. Sure the Canucks have a fairly pedestrian 1-1-1 record against the Kings this year. But their two losses (one in regulation, one in a shootout on opening night) happened within the first week of the regular season. After going 10-7-3 though the first 20 games to start the season, the Canucks have gone 41-10-6. To say that the Canucks have overcome their slow start is an obscene understatement.
But the Canucks do have to face a hot team tonight in the Kings. The Kings are the second hottest team in the league, going 8-1-1 in their last 10, and winners of four straight. That said, their 4 victories have come against CGY, SJS, COL and EDM. Except for San Jose, the Kings have faced 3 cupcakes lately, so playing the Canucks will be a harsh test for them. And the Kings have a pretty tough schedule to close out the season. Their six remaining games see them face VAN, SJS, PHX, ANA (x2) and DAL. Dallas is fading fast from the playoff picture, but the Kings other five games pose a serious challenge. With the injuries to Kopitar and Williams, a tough schedule and only 4 points ahead of eighth place Chicago, it's possible that the Kings could slip to 7th or 8th on the West.
As for the Canucks, they do have one last thing for which to play in the regular season - the President's Trophy. The Canucks could clinch 1st overall in the NHL if they win in regulation or overtime (not in the shootout), and the Flyers lose to the Thrashers. The most remarkable part of this story is this - if the Canucks clinch first overall tonight, they would win the President's Trophy before any other team in the Western Conference clinches a playoff spot. Unbelievable.
But then again, the entire Canucks season has been pretty unbelievable.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Overcome their second period woes. The Kings are not profilic scorers but they are very consistent. They score very evenly across all three periods. But for some reason, they give up a higher percentage of goals on the second period. Defensively it's easily their worst period. So the Canucks could do a lot for themselves by playing a dominant middle frame and taking over the game for good.
2. Get in Quick's head. The Canucks need to disturb. I'm definitely not advocating that they run the guy down, because I think that's uber cheap. But the Canucks need to go Tomas Holmstrom on him. But right on top of him all game. Force the Kings to take penalties to move them from in front of the net.
3. Get the lead going in to the first intermission. The Canucks have been held to only 1 first period goal in their last 6 games, despite going 6-0. The Kings are second in the league (The Canucks are first) in the number of times trailing after the first period. The Canucks are now tied for sixth in first period goals-for. If there is one aspect where the Canucks could use some practice it's getting off to faster starts on the scoresheet.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Kings @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Canucks vs Kings Gameday for March 31 (The Province)
3. Canucks could clinch Presidents' Trophy against Kings (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks/Kings Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Game Day (LA Kings Insider) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!