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Sizing Up Vancouver's First Round Opponent

Locked into third and lovin' life (more or less), Vancouver has to play up the stretch against San Jose and Calgary before the real show begins.

We all know the score: the defense is hurt, we got some AHL replacements sprinkled in and Luongo continues to play with a giant question mark over his head. Not the best situation but those are the cards on the table. They've got two games to get back into the groove.

After the jump is a look at the five possible opponents (some a long shot) we may see next week, including series results, top scorers and overall save percentages. In truth there is a hell of a lot more numbers to dive into dicing up the first round, but we'll wait until we know who that is. For now, let's do a hockey drive-by.

Detroit Red Wings
Season Series: Detroit 3-1
VAN Top Scorers:
Ryan Kesler - 2G, 3A
Kevin Bieksa - 4A
Henrik Sedin - 2G, 5A
Roberto Luongo Season Series Save% - .910

DET Top Scorers:
Henrik Zetterberg - 2G, 2A
Pavel Datsyuk - 3G, 2A
Jason Williams - 2 G, 3A
Jimmy Howard Season Series Save% = .907


Los Angeles Kings
Season Series: VAN 3-1
VAN Top Scorers:
Ryan Kesler - 2G, 2A
Henrik Sedin - 1G, 2A
Kyle Wellwood - 3G, 1A
Roberto Luongo Season Series Save% = .884

LA Top Scorers:
Dustin Brown - 3G, 1A
Alexander Frolov - 2G, 1A
Jarret Stoll - 1G, 2A
Jonathan Quick Season Series Save% = .908


Phoenix Coyotes
Season Series: Tied 2-2
VAN Top Scorers:
Mikael Samuelsson - 3G, 1A
Henrik Sedin - 1G, 4A
Alexandre Burrows - 3G
Roberto Luongo Season Series Save% = .966

PHO Top Scorers:
Ed Jovanovski - 1G, 1A
Lee Stempniak - 2G
Taylor Pyatt - 1G, 1A
Ilya Bryzgalov Season Series Save% = .880


Nashville Predators
Season Series: Tied 2-2
VAN Top Scorers:
Daniel Sedin - 2G, 3A
Henrik Sedin - 1G, 6A
Alexandre Burrows - 2G
Roberto Luongo Season Series Save% = .915

NSH Top Scorers:
Martin Erat - 3G, 2A
Steve Sullivan - 2A
David Legwand - 2A
Pekka Rinne Season Series Save% = .921


Colorado Avalanche
Season Series: VAN 4-2
VAN Top Scorers:
Mason Raymond - 2G, 5A
Henrik Sedin - 4G, 4A
Mikael Samuelsson - 4G, 3A
Roberto Luongo Season Series Save% = .902

COL Top Scorers:
Paul Stastny - 2G, 3A
Darcy Tucker - 2G
John-Michael Liles - 2G
Matt Duchene - 3G
Craig Anderson Season Series Save% = .880


A few things that jump out at me:

  • With the exception of the shutout, Vancouver has had Craig Anderson's number all year. In fact, his save % against Vancouver is the third lowest against all Western teams (his worst save % is against the Kings and the Ducks)
  • If it makes Anderson feel any better, the Canucks also have likely Vezina candidate Bryzgalov's number as well; his save % against Vancouver is the lowest of all Western teams.
  • Pekka Rinne's save % is high, but he's only played against Vancouver twice (Dan Ellis was in net for the other games).
  • Vancouver and Colorado scored an awful lot of goals against each other. If they end up as the pairing, both teams will need to firm up badly.
  • The Kings number is skewed because of the eight goal laughter that gave Luongo a .724%. If you ignore that game, he had a .965% in two games.

Overall this look pretty much confirms what I was already thinking: it would be just super to not see the Red Wings in the first round. On the one hand I recognize the idea that to be the best you got to beat the best but not only has Howard played well but so has Zetterberg and Datsyuk. And we're not even considering guys like Bertuzzi or better yet Holmstrom who, with a depleted defense, might as well move in with Luongo they're going to be in the crease so frequently. And obviously Detroit has been on a roll since the Olympics to the point where probably no one wants to face them. Again, not saying Vancouver couldn't beat them (it is the playoffs after all), but it's the least desirable path.

As for most desirable? I don't think there is one. Since I don't think Colorado will jump up to sixth, I'd flip a coin between Phoenix and LA, probably leaning more towards the Kings (the Coyotes would have to lose the rest of their games to fall back to sixth anyway). Each team is relatively inexperienced as groups heading into the playoffs and I'm not sold Quick can stop the Canucks offense, should they be in sync for four of seven games. Besides what better way for Luongo to exercise the demons of the eight goal slaughter than to go face them now? Bryzgalov isn't a guy you want to see either, but Luongo stacks up pretty well against their team and, in the back of your mind, wouldn't it be nice to cram a first round win down Mathieu Schneider's "time to retire" throat?

Either way, this isn't 2009. This won't be the upstart Blues the Canucks will be taking on. They'll be getting a tough team and it'll be a battle no matter what colors the opposition has.