This is the fifth all-time meeting between these teams with each side advancing twice. This season the Kings 2.29 G/G ranks them a solid 29th, just ahead of Minnesota for the title of the most castrated offense. Then again two years ago against Vancouver in the first round they scored 18 goals in six games (and lost). Last year they rattled off 20 against the Sharks (and shit the bed). So that talk about "if the Kings can score, look out" seems suspect; perhaps it's more about if they can stop the goals from going in since that seems to be the crux of their post season struggles. The Kings ended the regular season with GA/G of 2.07, second best in the league (Vancouver's was fourth best at 2.33); of course if you can't score you damn well better be responsible in your own zone and that's certainly helped them.
That recipe sounds somewhat familiar doesn't it? Right, the Canucks did that in 2007. Didn't work out so well for them.
For the second year this isn't a typical 1 vs. 8 scenario: the Kings have been playing for their hockey lives for weeks now, can dominate the puck possession, can smother the opposition with speed, just ended a season where they surrendered a franchise-best 179 goals against and having watched their last two games against San Jose have no shortage of guys who have zero compunction about questionable hits. It won't take long for the emotions to creep in on either side.
Let's examine the Los Angeles ranks to better understand what lies ahead. To assist us in scouting the enemy it's only natural we employ the help of of the world's great super agent, Duchess (a.k.a. Sterling Malory Archer). On a related note Killface isn't returning our DM's, so we assume he's still pissed about the Annihilatrix.
Grab your turtlenecks, gummy bears and scotch.
#15 / Right Wing / Los Angeles Kings
Feb 04, 1985
Anze Kopitar had a career season in assists and lead the Kings in scoring for the zillionth time while Brown has been on fire since the end of February. Kopitar also lead the Kings in road points with 40 and managed this without being pegged in the offensive zone like a pair of delightful twins we know. For all the talk about Richards and Carter it's really these two that drive the play offensively at even strength. The duo has combined for 15 career goals against Vancouver. Then there's Richardson who is on the top line mainly at the expense of Carter. Richardson isn't flashy but is dependable in most on-ice situations, like Higgins without being the beautiful abby rockstar that Higgins is.
Just like last time these teams met, the biggest question will be who gets Kopitar's line. If history is any indication AV will steer clear of the first line vs. first line - and I imagine Kesler's crew will get Richards - so keeping these guys off the board will fall to Beaker, Pahlsson and the aforementioned Professor. I am quite comfortable if that's how the first two games play out before they head to LA.
One more caveat: if Carter stones up and plays, it should push Richardson off this line or off the ice entirely. Robert_P. commented yesterday that Carter returning would move Williams to the first line and Richardson to the press box. Stay tuned.
Another aside: Remember Simon Gagne? Me neither. He, too, sits with a concussion along with the rest of the NHL notables who can't deal with direct sunlight right now. It's remarkable how many concussions there have been this season in a league that seemingly doesn't give a shit about them until perhaps a player dies on the ice and even then I can only expect their reaction would be muted. So one last time: fuck you Duncan Keith.
King's the new guy on the line, a rookie who played six games with the Kings last year and went 5-9-14 in 27 games this season (and if you toss out the few games Parse and Drewiske played he has the highest SH% on the team at 18.2). Like Kassian he could develop into a power forward but since that wet dream is still dry he's used more as an aggressive forechecker which is why he fits well with Richards and Williams. We know Richards deal by now; he can be a game changer or just sullenly mope around the ice like someone took his Spearmint Rhino money (ditto Carter if/when he shows up). Williams' 22 goals were second best on the team and ahead of both Richards and Carter. It's also the first time Williams has played all 82 games since 2007. Richards and Williams have a combined 9 career goals against the Canucks. This is the top six depth the Kings wished they had in 2010 but Frolov simply wasn't the answer. The Kesler Vs Richards narrative writes itself and it wouldn't be shocking if any close games were decided by which second line decides to exert themselves at the expense of the other.
I still can't take Penner seriously (18 points with a 5.9 SH% may have something to do with it). Like Richards and Carter he can win a game on his own but more often than not Penner remains a puck tease who thrills the home crowd with horrific on-ice decisions. I do remember his first goal as a King though came from stripping the manchild Rome in his own zone, peeling off him like he was Bure and burying the puck behind Luongo. Penner has seven career goals against Vancouver and Stoll alone has nine, many of them coming when he used to single-handedly abuse the Canucks as a member of the forever-golfing Oilers. Stoll also leads the Kings with a 55 FO%, better than Kesler, Hank and Pahlsson. Stoll was also the regular season recipient of the most minor penalties (30) for LA so perhaps he can hand Vancouver some momentum from time to time. Lewis is another rookie Sutter is giving some time to shine; his point total is off by five but he sliced his GAON/60 from 2.12 to 1.37 which is what you want to see from a checker. This trio will see plenty of the Sedins and Burrows.
Having watched Clifford play against the Sharks to close out the season I'm confident before this series is over he's going to board someone horribly, get away with it and I end up at Best Buy having to buy a TV that doesn't have a beer bottle-sized hole in the center of the screen. Clifford actually lead the Kings in scoring during last post season (3-2-5) so there's some iota of evidence there he can turn it on when necessary but in a rough series like this the safe bet is the Kings PIM leader (123 PIM) will counted on for bringing the hurt and little else. Fraser won the 'get out of jail free card' by being swapped for Ryan Smyth last summer and this season worked his way into the 4LC. Ted Nolan's kid is yet another rookie, but considering he may be bumped to the press box for Richardson when Carter returns coupled with the facts that he sees (a) the fewest minutes of all their regular skaters and (b) SBN doesn't think highly enough of him to have a profile pic means you can probably ignore him (now that I've said that he'll drop a Gordie Howe hat trick before it's all over). The group has a combined 22 career games against Vancouver with one point (a goal by Clifford) in the books.
The diva diver hasn't been his normal self since he pouted his way to a bazillion dollar deal last summer, but he had a better second half and judging by his 10 out of 10 comment (or the one where he said Burrows' only point in life is to annoy him, one or the other) it's a safe bet he'll bitch his way back into our lives in short order. The kid can back it up with his play however, leading the team with 24:53 TOI/G and leading the blueline in points (10-26-36). He and partner Scuderi snack on the toughest minutes so expect to see plenty of #8 bear hugging a twin or diving to the ice from the supposed sniper shot. For my money Scuderi is the bigger threat of the two in respect to silencing the Sedins offense, but Scuderi also has the highest GAON/60 of their defense at ES and second highest on the PK so he isn't walking on water either.
I, like you, marked out when Mitchell became a Canuck many moons ago and was sad to see him leave. Before he left we dreamed of how he would compliment new hires Hamhuis and Ballard and give Vancouver probably the sickest blueline depth in its history. Regrettably, he took his skills south and his steady play is exactly what allows rookie Voynov to jump up comfortably on the rush (an aside: I can laugh that Voynov is compared to Kiril Koltsov right? I am laughing and you can't stop me). Then again Voynov's youth and inexperience could have him tossed off this line in favor of Greene. Mitchell lives on the PK with a 3.35 SHTOI/G leading the way and as a result edges out Scuderi for the highest GAON/60 when down a man. I expect Mitchell to do everything legally possible (he ain't Clowe) to protect his crease but mancrushing aside the last time we saw much of him at this level Kane and the Hawks were dancing around him with noteworthy ease. There's some blood in the water here if the Canucks - especially on Voynov's side - can keep the pressure on.
Martinez is their Tanev (though more offensive-minded), a fan favorite-type player who isn't flashy but keeps his plays simple and responsible. He's showered with sheltered minutes and rarely starts in the defensive zone, so like Voynov there's some inexperience that may play into Vancouver's hand as the series rolls along. As far as shot accuracy goes, you got both ends of the spectrum covered with his pairing. If you're the type of person who cares about hits, make a note that Greene's 241 hits is second best on the Kings and far and away more than the closest Vancouver defenseman (Bieksa at 159). Greene rounds out a PK group that includes Mitchell, Scuderi, Kopitar and Richards. You want another obvious subplot to this series, it's right there. Can the PK'ers keep the Canucks PP off the board. Vancouver's PP has been atrocious down the stretch so it wouldn't be shocking to see it fail, but I do love being wrong. So, yeah, prove me wrong gentlemen.
#45 / Goalie / Los Angeles Kings
Aug 07, 1988
In 2010 the Canucks got to Quick who was still establishing himself as the true #1 in LA, but two years later it'll be much harder to do so. As stated in the intro, the Kings perform extremely well as a group at backchecking, protecting their crease and eating up the lanes in front of Quick. Now toss in his 40 wins and NHL-leading 10 shutouts to the mix and you get the picture of a remarkably responsible defensive system. Quick will need to be excellent if LA hopes to make it out of the first round for the first time since 2001.
If Vancouver learned anything from their battles with Rinne, Thomas and Niemi (x2) it's all about the second chances. Get Quick moving laterally and pounce on the rebounds before the defense can clear. If Kassian wants to make a whole new crop of fans, he'll plant himself on top of Quick and both can swap quiche recipes. Expect plenty of crease crashing and Burrows shrugging with that "what did I do?" expression.
Bernier is like Cory Schneider: a potential #1 guy backing up an entrenched #1. If you see Bernier take to the ice at any time in this series it's no offensive cakewalk but at the very least it signals good things has happening.
Lastly we certainly shouldn't forget their bench boss and master strategist who will be pitted against Vigneault for who can blow up conventional wisdom with their jumbled lines first.
Yup. In fact if we can wrangle this expression out of him someone needs to make an animated gif of it immediately.