After 8 months of following, cheering, debating, and praying, the playoffs are finally here. Instead of throwing in our outsider’s two cents for every series, we figured it would be better to ask people that know the ins-and-outs of their team like only a hockey blogger would know! To break down the 1st round series in the West between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, we enlisted the help of Richard Loat from Canucks Hockey Blog and Keith Korneluk from Kingscast.net, as well as regularly contributing here on VFMS. You might not have all the answers at the end of this—but you’ll have a better idea of some of the hopes and fears of the combatants.
What do you like most about your team going into the playoffs?
Richard (Canucks): They play as a team and they win as a team. I’ve never seen such a team oriented performance as I did when the Canucks won Henrik Sedin the Art Ross. The Canucks win as a team and they lose as a team, and the way the Sedins have been able to take over games and impose their will on their opponents is not only a thing of beauty, but it acts as the Canucks’ secret weapon. The Sedins will do what they want. They’ve proved it time and time again this season and they want a Cup badly.
Keith (Kings): What I like most about the Kings going to the playoffs is that they are going to the playoffs. We haven’t seen a playoff series at Staples Center since 2002. Our most recent playoff success still lives on in grainy clips on YouTube with Adam Deadmarsh eliminating the Red Wings. Luc Robitaille was still a King. Anze Kopitar was learning to walk and Drew Doughty was still nursing when that series happened. Seeing the Kings in the playoffs represents hope in Kings Nation. Not that these grizzled veterans might retire next season, but that this will be the first of many appearances for this young team.
What part of your team scares the hell out of you when you think about the upcoming series?
Richard (Canucks): It’s been said by one and all but for the first time in his tenure with the Canucks no one’s sure of which Luongo’s going to come and play every night. We’ve seen the numbers and people can continue to joke about Luongo still suffering from an “Olympic Hangover,” but the fact of the matter is, joking aside, from night to night we can see a superstar performance lost on what look like AHL goaltending mistakes.
That being said I’m a firm believer that when the playoffs start the team we see in game 82 is not the team we see in game 1 of the playoffs. The same goes for players and you can be sure Luongo wants this Cup as badly as any other player. The other thing you can be sure of is that Luongo’s gold medal win is going to go a long way towards how he prepares for the post season game in and game out. Luongo scares the hell out of me, but that could all change after a couple of games.
Keith (Kings): The Los Angeles Kings are all mental. When they’re on, they can compete with the best teams in the league (see games against Pittsburgh and Washington as examples). When they’re off, they lose in a shootout to the Edmonton Oilers. The question is: Which LA Kings team shows up in Vancouver? The other thing that scares the hell out of me is Terry Murray. If Jonathan Quick blows it in Game 1 and Game 2, does he continue to ride him to an eventual sweep? Will he put Raitus Ivanans (no points all season) in the lineup in favor of Scott Parse (11 goals in 59 games, some of them clutch)? Will he bump Jeff Halpern up to the first line for shits and giggles? Will he play Randy Jones in favor of Davis Drewiske and Peter Harrold (scratch that, he already does)?
What do you think your opponent has that will cause the most problems?
Richard (Canucks): Kopitar is as dynamic and fantastic as some of the NHL’s best. He lead the league in goals and points for a respectable amount of time to start the season and while he fell significantly in the standings, he’s going to be counted on to lead the Kings if they want to come out of this series. The Canucks D is a patchwork piece right now and if they can’t hunker down and get consistent in a hurry, Kopitar could well walk all over the Canucks.
Keith (Kings): The Sedin sisters may look like a last choice at a frat party but they’re sexy as hell on the ice. Against Doughty and Scuderi, they can be limited in terms of points but what happens against Jones and Johnson? Or worse, Greene and O’Donnell? This could end up being a shooting gallery on a slumping Jonathan Quick.
What are some of their weaknesses that you’re looking forward to seeing for an entire series?
Richard (Canucks): The Kings goaltending is tired. I wouldn’t look into the 8-3 win over the Canucks too much because I think if the Canucks can get to Bernier or Quick, it’s all over. The Kings are a young team and while they’re back in the playoffs, I think their inexperience is going to be their downfall. This is Ryan Smyth’s first trip to the post season since his days in Edmonton, but he’s the only real experience the team has to rely on.
Keith (Kings): Which Roberto Luongo shows up? The gold medal goalie or the guy with a 3.84 GAA and .872 SV% since the Olympics? Dustin Brown can really get under the Canucks’ skin. If he can force them to take penalties in bunches, we might have a shot.
Who wins the series (and how many games does it take?)
Richard (Canucks): Canucks in 5.
Keith (Kings): I hate to say it, but Vancouver wins in six. I hope I’m wrong…
Which player (either team) has a break out performance?
Richard (Canucks): It’s Luongo’s time to shine. This will be his 3rd trip to the post season, he has the “big game experience” behind him, and he’s got the hopes of Canucks Nation on his shoulders. A hot goaltender goes a long way because it only takes one goal to win a game. Luongo has the most to prove and once the puck drops on game one he’s going to prove to us why he’s one of the NHL’s elite.
Keith (Kings): A slim and trim Kyle Wellwood scores an impressive three goals per game. Okay, seriously, Wayne Simmonds goes on a point-per-game tear, annoys the opposition enough to take copious amounts of penalties, and takes one ill-timed slashing penalty per game himself.