Ah, it's finally back: Vancouver playoff hockey. It feels like a generation since the Hawks iced the Canucks last season, an exasperated Mitchell and a sullen Ohlund (both gone now for all intents and purposes) following a sad Luongo off the ice.
A year later, the lads are back. By virtue of winning the Northwest, they get home ice advantage against the sexy upset pick of the West: a team loaded with youth, plays with an edge and has nothing to lose. This script sounds awful familiar.
As that Tom Petty fellow said, waiting really is the hardest part. But finally, with the puck dropping in a few hours, we're approaching zero hour. After the jump, we'll embrace our inner Nostradamus to give you our take on the series which means we'll get some things right, some things wrong and in four centuries we'll amass a cult following of crazies. Sweet.
I am still worried about the Canucks and their ability to go all the way, but I have said all along barring Colorado moving into 6th, that facing LA would be the best matchup for the Canucks. I think overall the 8-3 loss was a glitch, and if you look at the series overall, the Canucks played quite well against them in the other 3 games. The Kings are a team on the rise, they've been building towards this for a while, but a lack of goaltending and inexperience overall will be their downfall against this Canucks team that's already being written off in this series. I may have doubts about them winning the Cup, but I am confident they can win this in 6.
Nucks & Pucks
I offer you five predictions for the Canucks’ opening round series against the LA Kings. Each prediction will be ranked on a scale of 1-10 Rick Tocchets. A rating of 1 Rick Tocchet is a long-shot, risky proposition. A rating of 10 Tocchets means you take it to the bank, baby! Just don’t let the Feds get wind of it...
Roberto Luongo outduels Jonathan Quick
Rating: 9 Rick Tocchets out of 10
I know there is a lot of concern about Bobby-Lu, but I am not worried. He showed that he can handle the big pressure games at the Olympics, and he usually snaps out of slumps in a dramatic way. Jonathan Quick is a young, playoff virgin—a role that history has proven can either lead to an epic playoff run (Patrick Roy, Johan Hedberg, Simeon Varlemov, etc.) or a gigantic first-round flameout (Jim Carey, Blaine Lacher, Steve Mason, etc.). I don’t think Quick will be bad, but I think Luongo will demonstrate that he is a superior tender.
Rating: 2 Rick Tocchets out of 10
Ivanans is a 6’4",250 lb. Latvian who fought 14 times this season and racked up 136 PIMs in 61 games. Rypien needs no introduction, having appeared in three of the top 10 scraps of the 09-10 season. Sadly, despite Rypien’s propensity for felling Goliaths (see Gill, Hal; Valabik, Boris), we are not likely to see this epic tilt. Fisticuffs are rare in the playoffs, so even if both players dress (not guaranteed) they are unlikely to drop the mitts.
Ryan Smyth takes at least three goalie interference penalties
Rating: 6 Rick Tocchets out of 10
Smyth is the kind of sandpaper guy you love to have on your team but hate to play against. You can bet that he will be making life miserable for Luongo all series long—and may well cross the line on a number of occasions. Think of a whiter, skinnier Dustin Byfuglin.
Willie Mitchell plays his first game since January
Rating: 1 Rick Tocchet out of 10
Sadly, this appears to be a pipedream—but we can dream, right? Get well soon Willie, even if you don’t play again this season or beyond—take care of that noggin.
Secondary scoring the series
Rating: 8 Rick Tocchets out of 10
We already knew the Sedins can score. Now we know that Henrik can blindly tip a perfect between-the-legs pass to Daniel so that he can score a perfect between-the-legs hat-trick goal. Neat. The Kings ain’t too shabby upfront either, with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov putting pucks in the net. There is a good chance that these are not the players who will decide the series—rather, it is the Ryan Keslers, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Wellwoods, Justin Williams, and Pavol Demitras of this series that will draw the weaker defensive pairings and, ultimately, be called on to score the clutch goals.
The Canucks do match up well against the Kings. But I refuse to take LA lightly. Sure Jonathan Quick has struggled lately. So has Roberto Luongo. Kings' coach Terry Murray said Tuesday that Quick has looked very good in practice. I've heard nothing about Lou. Roberto is the money guy. Will he kick it up several notches now that the playoffs have arrived? I'm going to guess "yes". He's going to have to. Take a gander at the Kings' scoring leaders. There are so many different guys that can score on any given night. Vancouver's top 3 lines are going to have to match that kind of balanced scoring and at the same time play a consistent team defence.
4 cup winners on the Kings' roster: Fredrick Modin, Sean O'Donnell, Rob Scuderi and Jason Williams. The Kings boast both explosive youth and veteran leadership. The Canucks have 2 Cup winners in Shane O'Brien and Mikael Samuelsson.
See where I'm heading? Yeah right. I think this is going to be a tough series for the Canucks. But I'll predict they take this in 6. Are you ready Lou? Show us what you got!
I hate predictions. I care barely dress myself, so I have no right predicting who is going to come out on top in the only NHL playoff series where neither franchise has won the damn thing. But you've scrolled down this far (thanks jerk) so I feel obligated. In no certain order, my bold quarter final ruminations:
- I have no faith that Quick can best Luongo in a best of seven.
- It wouldn't shock me if Luongo bests himself in a best of seven.
- Our defense will suck, but will be offset by our offense going apeshit.
- Even if Mitchell was ready, Doughty will be the best blueliner on the ice.
- I can already see Kopitar scoring with Bieksa out of position.
- I will steadfastly remain Michelle McGee's biggest supporter.
- We'll hate Dustin Brown within five minutes of the open.
- If the series goes seven, Salo plays in five.
- In a handful of short, fleeting moments, we'll temporarily forget the universal hate ride we've directed at Alberts and Bernier.
- We'll dislike Wayne Simmonds, but secretly want him on our team.
- Inexplicably, Wellwood will score. More than once. And they'll be pretty too.
- I can already see Bieksa's point shots missing.
- There will be laughter directed at Ryan Smyth for a variety of reasons.
- Even vegans secretly want to try the KFC Double Down.
- I'll forget Pavol Demitra plays for Vancouver.
- Michal Handzus is going to make my eventual hangover feel worse.
- Mikael Samuelsson will show he was worth every penny Gillis tossed at him.
- I can already see Bieksa sitting in the box.
- There will be months of people bitching about Lost once it's over
- Hordchuik Vs. Ivanans would be like putting a bunny in a blender: quick, messy and the destruction of any lingering vestiges of child-like innocence towards the world you may have had.
- I remain excited for Taylor Swift's future coke benders, pregnancies and reality show meltdowns.
- The Sedins, Kesler and Raymond will steer this ship to the second round.
For long-suffering Kings fans, I think it's great they've been rewarded with talent like Kopitar, Doughty, Johnson and Quick who should serve as their core for seasons to come. But I ultimately return to Quick and Luongo; Lui may have ended poorly, but he has playoff experience, decent post season numbers (2.09 GAA and a .930 save%) and the reality that if he ever wants to win Olympic gold in his barn and follow it with a long Cup run, it's now. No matter what, we sink or swim with The Captain and this will be the third time he leads us into deep April; third time's the charm? Sure.
Canucks over the Kings in five.