Every playoff matchup will receive a once-over prior to puck drop this week, including Bourne’s prediction, explanation and final thought on each. He does not hate your team. He does not love your team. He is just talking hockey.
Previously: #4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
Season matchup: Tied 2-2
Who wins the series: The Canucks
How many games: Six
Please do explain:
First, the lopsided facts: When the Canucks are ahead of the Kings in a statistical category, they’re ahead by light years. When the Kings are ahead, it’s by nanoseconds.
The Vancouver Canucks finished the regular season 5th in the NHL in goals-per-game with 2.94, while the Kings finished in 29th, with 2.29.
That’s hardly balanced out by the fact that the Kings finished 2nd in goals-against-per-game (2.07) while the Canucks were 4th (2.33).
The Canucks are 13 spots ahead of the Kings in powerplay percentage (that’s a lot), while the Kings are two spots ahead of the Canucks in penalty kill percentage (that’s not). The Canucks won the President’s Trophy as the NHL team with the most regular season points, while the Kings survived a dog fight to get into the playoffs.
Fine, yes, numbers and all that. Let’s actually talk about these teams.
This series is going to be closer than it sounds for a few reasons. For one, the Kings are much improved offensively since they traded Jack Johnson to the Blue Jackets for sniper Jeff Carter. They finished strong down the stretch.
Also, the Canucks are starting the series without last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner Daniel Sedin. While the Canucks are 8-1 without Sedin this year, the type of person who thinks you’re better off without one of the League’s best players is the type of person who should wear a helmet to eat cereal.
On top of that, the Canucks always possess the ability to find themselves in the midst of a goalie controversy, so a hot start by the Kings could really whip the Canucks fanbase (and team) into a confused frenzy.
That ain’t enough for it to actually happen.
The Canucks are built to be a bitch to play against in playoffs with two-way studs like Ryan Kesler, David Booth, Jannik Hansen, Sammy Pahlsson, Chris Higgins and others. And again, they’re playing a team that’s had offensive issues when they weren’t playing the League’s most responsible forwards.
They can get offense from a variety of places, especially when you consider that their d- corps’ has the ability to (and is willing to, something not all d-men are) quickly transition the puck up-ice to get the biscuit in the hands of their numerous skilled forwards.
And, regardless of who’s in net, they have fantastic goaltending. The Kings do to in Jonathan Quick of course, but when you’re counting on your goaltender to be a major advantage for you, facing Roberto Luongo (or Corey Schneider) isn’t exactly your best-case scenario for gaining ground.
The Canucks have too much going for them to fumble this one in the first round
What I’m excited to find out:
How Luongo performs in the early going.
He’s “fantastic” as I just said, I just wonder if last year’s playoff experience is going to make him better, or worse. He’s always fun to watch when the pressure’s on.
That list of two-way forwards above is pretty dense, which leads me to believe the Canucks use advanced stats. It’s tough to track down that many guys that are good both ways when you’re just guessing using the old eye-test. Good luck facing that group when you desperately need a goal.