It has to be said. I loved the Tweet from the LA Kings after Game One. No apology was needed. It speaks to the cocky confidence of another dangerous #8 seed that the Canucks need to beat. To do that, Game Two had to be all about shaking that confidence and crushing the confidence. They failed to do that entirely, and lost. But there was some reasons for hope, small as that may seem right now.
Ryan Kesler was the man that had to put his controversial performance in Game One behind him and just play hockey. He did so tonight, but caught a bad break on a late penalty that cost a goal. That was better from the Canuck talisman. His work ethic is what is needed from all of them in Game Three.
As an aside to that, while the first game took me by surprise, subsequent watching of a veritable feast of playoff hockey in the last couple days has shown that NHL playoff reffing is a strange and wonderful phenomena. Rather than get the angst of bitching about something over which there is little control, I'm going to abstain, hope the Puck Gods reward my team more than their team, and hope my team, at least, just skates away from the distractions. Ryan Kesler got outplayed in the first game by Mr Richards playing the game he has to. Drive them nuts, but be focused. Tonight, he was far better. The AMEX line was playing hard, and will be together for Game 3.
But when your power play is so inept that it costs you two goals, one on probably Alexander Edler's biggest mistake in a while, and the Kings get one goal greasier than day old fries, and another just maddening in how Trevor Lewis outoworked three guys, it might be more than just confidence. They will need to limit those breakdowns from here on in.
Perhaps Canuck fans can take some confidence from the fact their team was the best on the road this season ( tied with NY at 24-12-5, just above those Flyers at 22-13-6. Look how they are doing, right? ). They have the skill to win both at Staples Center. The trick will be maintaining the confidence to do so, against a team that will be brimming with it.
- Alexander Edler. When he plays with confidence and just uses his skills, he is a beast. Tonight, he was not really that horrible by a cursory viewing of the stat sheet. A -1, for that late 1st period giveaway that was a precursor to his struggles. He seemed to fight the puck all night. There was a late rush that about summed up the night he had. With a man breaking, he missed him by three feet, and an icing killed more of the time they might be looking for. 4 shots, 1 miss, 2 blocks and 3 hits. A perhaps gracious ( by the stats man ) only 1 giveaway and 1 takeaway. But that was not the best 24:14 TOI the man spent. He can and has to be better in the next one.
- So, it all depends on how you look at it, right? I know Kings fans are rightly going to be over the moon, I know I would be if I was a fan of their team. Tonight, they played a hard game, and are full marks for the win, because they scored more goals than the team they were playing against. They won because they were strong in front of their goaltender, and because he made the saves when he had to against the team that outshot his 48-27. They won because they watched enough tape to figure out that a suddenly bereft of confidence power play can be had with pressure, and attacking the points. They won because, and this is not a bitch, but because Mike Richards drew two penalties in the third. One where he went to the net, and perhaps helped the ref make the call ( it was a too hard crosscheck, and a mistake by Ballard, even though that type of thing did not look like something that was getting called all game, and happens almost every shift. ) The second, the ref will watch and know he got it wrong. At least I hope so with the flying elbow to the head of Kesler! At least it was not 4 minutes for the blood his errant stick spilled. It was a tough break. Thats playoff hockey though, everything is big, and the refs are only human. Breaks like that you have to overcome. The Kings overcame their mistakes and the Canucks did not overcome their bad breaks and errors. The Kings won as a result. No complaints or excuses. On to the next one. Read Jewels From The Crown or Battle Of California for more on how they won. I'm here to tell you how the Canucks lost!
- Ryan Kesler was much more involved in the game the right way tonight. Yes, that penalty was not good, but I don't know how you can really blame the guy for his stick there. He was much more in KesLord mode, and that should be something heartening for Canuck fans. Sometimes things like that PIM will happen from his hard charging style. While there was some of the "bullshit" the Kings are obviously trying to draw the Canucks into after the whistle, but overall Kesler and his teammates played better whistle to whistle. Why not do that if you are the Kings though. They got a power play as a result of it, to kill two more minutes from the clock by burying Henrik ( Dustin Brown ) and then working him over because they knew the reaction would be fierce. Sami Salo was in there. Sami freaking Salo. Jannik Hansen got lots of minutes because...(well, actually, I don't know why...because Drew Doughty has a big contract and he doesn't? LOL ), ...but enough of that tangent. Kesler was much more involved, and if the Canucks are going to come back and win this series, it will be on the back of that dominant line in LA. 6 shots, a block, 3 hits, and a game high 4 takeaways. The -1 was from the pass to the point where Hamhuis fell to give the breakaway for the second shortie for Brown. Maybe blame him for the pass, I don't know. He won 13 of 25 draws, and his line had 12 shots and 11 hits. It would have been nice if David Booth had one of those shots ( he had 0 tonight ), but he had 6 hits, several of the kaboom variety. Chris Higgins had 6 shots, and only 1 hit, but was a beast along the boards as usual. There was a lot to like from that line tonight. Of course they have to produce, but there is one place to find confidence for you.
- Henrik Sedin misses his brother on his line, but no one can deny his work rate. He was so strong on the puck down low. Like the telecast said, it was there where he missed Daniel, although the Kings coverage in front of their net had something to do with that. Daniel would probably have gotten open someplace as he thought the game along with his twin. Alexandre Burrows sure tried, and you cannot blame it on Jannik Hansen, who scored a goal and was involved all night, but it was tonight that I actually got that sinking feeling for the loss of the younger brother. (Fuck You El Codo Grande...have a nice rest before the playoffs did you? Go Coyotes Go! ) Henrik had 6 shots tonight. Some of them might not have broken glass, but neither would have the one that he fed down low to Hansen in front of the net for his goal. Placement of the shot is what he excels at, and you could see him trying his tricks in that regard all night. 2 hits for the Canuck captain, and while I won't discount his game high 5 giveaways tonight, sometimes that happens when you are trying things. Too many of them were on the moribund power play, however.
- The Canucks outshot the Kings by a large margin. They outhit them 45-32 ( Booth, Burrows, and Lapierre all had 6 ) They won the faceoff battle 37-31, and the takeaways were even at 10. Even with Hank's 5 giveaways, the Canucks only won that stat 9-6. They even drew five calls and only took four. But the Kings got the important power play goal in the exact type of manner the Canucks have to to win this series ( yes, I most definitely think they still can win this series ), by driving the net and getting a bounce. It was greasy, and while you would like your goaltender to squeeze that one, sometimes they get through. I thought Roberto Luongo had an OK game for 4 goals against. He made the first save on Kopitar, and then had his guys falling around when the puck fell to Brown. Breakaways are always tough. Its a shame on a night where the Canucks were involved and attacking, that 3 of those 4 goals were a direct result of scrambled play that was not handled well. That 4th goal, I lay at his feet a little less than the three guys that got outworked by Lewis. But, for all of that, I think you will see Cory Schneider for Game Three. Not because Luongo was bad, because he was not. He had some huge saves to keep his team in it at several points in the game. The media trolls like Damien Cox will make it out to be so when the announcement is made, and that is a predictable shame ( at what passes for unbiased...if they are going to cheer for one game or the other, why can't frigging bloggers do their silly self important jobs? I though national media members were paid to be a bit less truculent. My mistake ), but the main reason I think you see Schneider in Game Three is because it will hopefully jolt the team. Thats my take on what AV's thought process would be, and I am just guessing of course.
In the end, it looks bad for the President's Trophy winners. But I refuse to think that this team is THAT bad. Tonight was more an example of the Kings playing strong in their own end while taking advantage of some pretty big breaks. Good on them for executing, and I am certainly not going to degrade their accomplishment. Its hard to argue with the scoreboard. But, watching this game, the Kings can be had. They were not that strong in their own end. Quick making like he has learnt something from all those close games in the season might be a more daunting roadblock. But even he can be beat in the same way that Roberto was on 3 of the goals tonight. Create havoc in front of the net, and beat your opposite check in your one on one battle. They showed that in a textbook goal late to give a little bit of hope. Going to the net was all Raymond and Kassian did on that shift. Samuel Pahlsson just picked up the cookie. Thats a playoff goal. Just do that. The skilled loop de loops on the power play can wait. Just get it to the point, and go to the net. Apart from a slap pass attempt, I don't want to see the fancy. The stakes are too high now. I have confidence because I have seen them do it before. The defensive game needs more work in their own end on those scrambled plays, and that is another place the comparison to the opponent is lacking for the Canucks. But we all know that we have seen this team dominate on the road by playing a simple game. You know AV will have some very willing pupils in the next practice. That, and desperation that comes from being down 2-0 should be enough.
It has to be!