This was the scene when the Kings eliminated the Canucks in April of 2012.
Photo Credit: Rich Lam/Getty Images
It was a tale of two games this past weekend for the Canucks (as it often is when a team plays two games in one weekend). On Friday in Orange County, the Canucks put in a subpar performance but managed to blowout the Ducks thanks to their clicking power-play and a dominant performance from Cory Schneider. On Sunday, the Canucks actually managed to tighten up defensively and control the game for long stretches at even-strength, but were blown out 4-1 by the Sharks thanks to subpar penalty-killing, excellent goaltending by Antii Niemi’s posts, and some brutal turnovers in their own end.
On Monday night the Canucks will play their sixth game in nine days against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. Surely the short-handed Canucks will be out for a spot of redemption against the team that eliminated them in the first round a season ago, but they’ve got a tough task ahead of them. The Kings haven’t brought their A-Game yet this season, but they remain a formidable club and have mostly been sunk by unsustainably bad goaltending. Also, Drew Doughty and company despise Vancouver’s hockey team (like 28 other NHL teams, if we’re being honest) so you know they’ll be getting up for this one.
Read on past the jump.
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM PST
After leading his team to the Stanley Cup last spring, Jonathan Quick has struggled somewhat in the early going this season, recording a sub .900 even-strength save percentage. His first two outings were atrocious but he cleaned it up in Los Angeles’ third game against the Oilers (before being beaten with only four seconds left in the contest). Quick was due for some regression this season (he’s only posted an above average save percentage twice in his career), and if we’re being honest he’ll probably become another poster boy for why it’s dumb to sign goaltenders to life-time contracts sooner rather than later.
As a Canucks fan, it’s gratifying to revel in the irony of taking a shot at a club who signed a solid goalie to a ludicrous contract. Kings fans should probably feel the same way when they accuse Vancouver of diving, considering how they employ serial pratfall artist Dustin Brown, but they don’t because they have the self-awareness you’d expect from folks who live in Southern California.
Anyway, Jonathan Quick is surely better than he’s shown so far this season, so I wouldn’t expect him to just Yak up goals against the Canucks on Monday evening.
Through four games the Kings have only won once (against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night), and have only managed to score eight goals despite an elevated 9.5% on-ice shooting percentage. Their goaltending has betrayed them in the early going and they’re short-handed along the blueline with Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene currently out of the lineup. Still the Kings remain one of the league’s best possession teams and will be a sturdy test for a Canucks club that was humbled on Sunday night.
Vancouver’s top-four has struggled through five games, and if Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa can’t figure it out this evening, the Canucks are likely to get stomped by the Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin William’s trio. I’d expect the Sedin line to face the majority of minutes against Scuderi, Doughty and the Kopitar line as well, which isn’t a matchup I particularly like for the Canucks…
Ultimately, Vancouver is going to need their power-play to click and their goaltending to be stellar to come away with the win on Monday night. Some folks are up in arms about the power-plays 0/7 performance against San Jose on Sunday, but it really wasn’t that bad. Vancouver generated five power-play scoring chances in seven opportunities – a respectable rate – and hit three posts with the man-advantage. That’s a solid evening, ruined by some bad luck.
It’s expected that Roberto Luongo will get the start this evening. Luongo has had some success against the Kings in the past, but they do seem to know how to beat him and have a move that he struggles to stop in particular.
Basically the move consists of a Kings forward faking a wrist shot, skating the puck cross crease, waiting for Luongo to go down and flipping the puck over him with a backhand. Both Kopitar and Brown scored goals with this move in the postseason last April, while Kopitar also scored with it against the Canucks on New Years Eve in 2011 and Mike Richards hit the post on Luongo using the exact same move in that new years eve game as well. Watch for it, because the Kings will surely try it again tonight.
Game Day Links
- When the Royal Half and the LA Kings team up, you can rest assured that the trolling will be quality.
- TSN’s Game Preview
- Maxim Lapierre and Province beat writer Ben Kuzma get into it at 1:22 of this video.
- Ben Kuzma has changed his opinion on the effectiveness of Vancouver’s power-play twice in two games.
- Iain Macintyre writes that Chris Higgins has more to give.