|Photo credits: orlandkurtenbach, nicholegraze (Wikimedia Commons)|
When the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings meet on Thursday night to begin their first-round matchup, it will mark the first time since 1993 that these two teams will have played a postseason game against each other, and only the fourth time time ever that they have been matched in the NHL playoffs. (For what it’s worth, the Kings have won the last two series.)
So much for past history, then.
While this playoff series may be lacking somewhat in terms of rivalry, it makes up for that by featuring two exciting and potentially very high-scoring teams: the Canucks finished second overall in goals scored, while the Kings were ninth. Neither team has a great deal of playoff experience — in fact, this is the Kings’ first trip into the postseason since 2002. Both teams feature workhorse goalies — the Kings’ Jonathan Quick played in 72 games this year, while the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo played in 68 games — whose recent performances have raised significant question marks.
|Offense||The Canucks’ balanced attack, led by Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin, will feature three potentially dangerous lines. The electrifying Anze Kopitar will lead the charge for the Kings, who cannot quite match the Canucks’ depth but still have 11 double-digit goal scorers (two more than the Canucks).|
|Defense||The Canucks have a banged-up, inconsistent defensive corps who will be missing at least shutdown defenseman Willie Mitchell. The Kings have Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson. Advantage L.A.|
|Goaltending||Both Luongo and Quick have been problematic down the stretch run, but Luongo has the edge in experience, particularly in high-pressure situations (as his Olympic gold medal will attest).|
|Special Teams||Both teams have good powerplays (Canucks sixth overall, Kings seventh) and mediocre penalty killing (Canucks 18th, Kings 20th). This one’s a wash.|
|Coaching||Unlike the team he coaches, Terry Murray of the Kings has plenty of postseason experience. His counterpart, Alain Vigneault, has evolved his coaching style from ultra-defense to high-intensity forecheck and offense, but has not yet proven entirely effective as a playoff coach. Edge goes to the Kings for now, but this may the year Vigneault silences his critics.|
| Other Factors
||The Canucks were dominant at home this season — they tied the Washington Capitals for most home wins with 30. By contrast, they were a game under .500 on the road. The extra Canuck home game may end up being the deciding factor.|
Canucks in 7. This series will be closer than many think, and the Kings will give the Canucks all they can handle.