Sizing up the Vancouver Canucks’ Division Rivals: LA Kings

The defending Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings reside in the Pacific Division and are arguably the best team in not just the West, but in the entire NHL.

For the Vancouver Canucks, each and every game against Los Angeles will serve as a sort of measuring stick to see if Vancouver’s aspirations of being a playoff contending team are legitimate.

Last Year’s Record and Key Dates to Remember

(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

There’s an emerging theme in analyzing the Vancouver Canucks’ division opponents and that is the Canadian club did not play well against the top teams from the Pacific. This theme remains constant against the Kings as Vancouver posted a 1-3-1 record last season with their only win coming in the late stages of the season.

This year’s schedule:

(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

November 8th in Los Angeles
January 1st in Vancouver
March 12th in Vancouver
March 21st in Los Angeles
April 6th in Vancouver

I have already written about how the January 1st game against the Kings is incredibly important for Vancouver and that sentiment still remains true as the Canucks head into the regular season.

If each and every game against the Kings is a test for Vancouver’s legitimacy as a playoff caliber team, there will be no greater opportunity for the Canucks to prove their worth than in their final 3 games versus the Southern Californian team. The April 6th contest, especially, is a game Vancouver will more than likely have to win if they are to make the playoffs and they can show they are ready for the big dance if they take two points from the defending Stanley Cup champs.

The schedule sets up favourably for Vancouver and more success against the top teams in the division is needed if the Canucks are to return to the kind of success they know they are capable of achieving.

Did Jim Benning Find a Hidden Gem in Linden Vey?

Jim Benning’s trade for Linden Vey during the 2014 NHL Draft was all sorts of shrewd. Benning received an NHL ready prospect in return for a pick that would have been used on a player a few years away from making an impact for the Canucks.

Vey is more than ready to step into the lineup and make an impact. The Canadian is something of an AHL machine, as he has posted consecutive seasons of 43, 67 and 48 points.

Vey spent so much time in the AHL because Los Angeles is incredibly deep at center and there was no space for him in their NHL squad. Benning took advantage of this level of depth because Vey has already been seasoned in the AHL and looks primed to take over the 3rd line center role in Vancouver.

Add in a strong preseason and Vey can make the most of his opportunities on a Vancouver squad that really needs his offensive skill. Vey could show Los Angeles that they should have made some room for him.

Vancouver Canucks’ Power Play versus Jonathan Quick

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Jonathan Quick posted a 1.00 GAA and .967 save percentage against the Vancouver Canucks last season. Let those numbers sink in for a few seconds.

If Vancouver is to have any chance of success against Los Angeles, the top offensive guys will have to somehow find a way to beat Quick. Quick is great down low, deceivingly adept at high shots and can move side to side with ease. So how can Vancouver crack the Quick code?

There’s no easy answer to that question, but the solution may lie in Vancouver’s power play. Over 5 games last season, the Canucks only potted 3 power play goals to the tune of 3 of 24 on power play opportunities. Against a team as good on the back end as Los Angeles, that production is not good enough.

L.A. is very good 5 on 5, so Vancouver will have to capitalize on their opportunities with an extra man. With the addition of Radim Vrbata, the Canucks will look to create cross-ice opportunities for Vrbata’s wicked shot from the high slot, akin to his first tally of the preseason.

Vancouver’s success against L.A. hinges heavily on its power play. The Canucks will have to be better with the man advantage, or else they face a similar fate as last season.

Check out The Hockey Writers tomorrow for a look at the Arizona Coyotes.