Western Conference Quarter Final Game 2 Preview

(Header courtesy theyslayedthedragon)

It didn’t take long for Canucks fans to hit the panic button. Ah, the playoffs. When a single loss moves this city and the Canucks fanbase to complete an utter dispair, and a single win drives them to sheer elation. Thank goodness Canucks fans aren’t prone to outrageously overreacting to things.

Despite the eye-ball test of Game 1, where the Canucks looked like they were severely under the gun for the entire game, it wasn’t all that bad by the underlying numbers. In fact, despite the result, there was plenty about which to be encouraged. The club’s ultimate undoing was entirely their own, easily correctable fault.

So the question is… can they correct it?

Click past the jump for the underlying numbers, key performers and more detailed game information.

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 7:00 PM PT

Radio: Team 1040

The Setup

The Canucks lack of discipline and attention to detail was their undoing in Game 1, and they know it. Their diving and embellishment was infuriating. As Jeff Angus pointed out earlier this morning, the Canucks worked hard this season to change the perception that exists about them and in one game, all that work came undone. It’s strange to me that a team can switch their mentality so abruptly despite evidence of their success. They were tough for an entire season, fought when called upon to do so, and used that strategy to get themselves back to the top of the standings. Then when the playoff began, the players as a team just abandoned that ,and started diving and whining and chirping. It’s here in these scenarios where Alain Vigneault needs to earn his keep. It is the head coach that needs to intervene and get his players back on course.

At the top of the list of players that need to cut that shit out immediately is Ryan Kesler. Kesler’s change in antics from the regular season to Game 1 was the most obvious of any Canucks player. Without Daniel Sedin for the foreseeable future, the Canucks absolutely need Kesler to provide hard-driving offence, not head snapping and somersaults. This team will go as Ryan Kesler can take them and If he is too preoccupied with trying to get the refs to call a penalty instead of pointing at the net behind Jonathan Quick, then the Canucks won’t see the second round. Does anyone remember "Round 2 Kesler" against Nashville last year? Of course you do, because it was beautiful. Do you remember any head snaps and dives from that series? Nope, because they didn’t happen, well, except for that one hilarious chicken-wing. But that aside, when Kesler is in beast mode, he’s focused on hockey and he leaves the theatrics in the dressing room.

Despite all of this, the Canucks had plenty of positives from Game 1. They had the edge in score-tied possession and scoring chances, they were earned five power play opportunities, and Roberto Luongo was terrific. Those are all very encouraging signs, to be sure. If the Canucks can stay disciplined and get back to playing whistle to whistle without the antics, they’ll be in great shape. The rest of their game looked just fine.

For the Kings, you have to think that they are going to keep the same game plan as they utilized so effectively in Game 1. Quick was dynamite, the Kopitar lined was utterly dominant, and they managed to squeeze blood from a pancake as they got a goal from Dustin Penner. 

Drew Doughty was a high-event rollercoaster for Los Angeles, as always and in fact, the Kings’ defence did not have a particularly strong game. The Canucks got to them on Wednesday, and if they can continue to do that, they’ll be in good shape. If the Kings need to make any change, they need to make sure that they are playing a safer game in their own end. For all the flack that he’s taken this year, Henrik Sedin had a GREAT game chance-wise, as did linemate Alex Burrows and two-way force David Booth. The Kings will  surely look to eliminate Vancouver’s chances against with even more physical play against the Canucks top line, so they’re going to need to bring it tonight.

Game Notes

Roberto Luongo starts for the Canucks again. Byron Bitz is suspended for the next two games, after his targeted head hit to Kyle Clifford in Game 1.

After Bitz was officially suspended, Harrison Mooney at Pass It To Bulis speculated on the necessary lineup changes:

Alain Vigneault is now faced with a lineup decision: will it be Dale Weise or Andrew Ebbett for the next two games? You could make a case for both. Weise brings size and grit, but he’s not the possession player Ebbett is, and in a series where the Canucks need to control the puck and start finding success on the powerplay, I’d wager that Ebbett gets the call.

Jonathan Quick remains in net for the Kings. Clifford is likely out, and Brad Richardson is out after an appendectomy. According to the legendary Helene Elliot, Andrei Loktionov will make his way into the lineup in Clifford’s place.

Key Performers

Los Angeles Kings

Anze Kopitar. Kopitar’s line was an absolute machine in Game 1, schooling Pahlsson and co. on almost every matched shift they had against one another.  If Kopitar has another strong game tonight, and the Pahlsson line continues to get burned on chances, the Kings will surely be headed home to LA with a commanding lead in this series.

Vancouver Canucks

Alain Vigneault. As I said above, it’s the head coach that needs to be involved, and get his players back on course, after they ignored a season’s worth of strategy and process in game one. He must be especially focused on getting Ryan Kesler back on plot and doing nothing but playing hockey. For the Canucks to even up the series tonight, Vigneault has to have a tight reign on all of his players and keep them squarely and wholly focused on the task at hand.

The Links

Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Game 1 does nothing for Canucks’ image, or cause (The Province)
  3. Just play hard between whistles (The Province)
  4. Apparently Canucks are not Canada’s most hated team (Pass It To Bulis)
  5. Cam Cole: Canucks must tune out white noise of controversy that swirls around them (Vancouver Sun)