Preview: After a tense race for the Pacific division lead, the Kings find themselves the 8th seed in the playoffs, facing a Vancouver Canucks team that’s coming in underrated, despite winning the President’s Trophy for best record in the regular season. Vancouver
is just as hungry for a Cup as they were last season, when fans rioted after a game 7 loss to the Bruins. Now, the road to the city’s first Cup begins with a red-hot goaltender and energized Kings offense.
Canucks: Henrik Sedin – Henrik gets the nod over Daniel simply based on how incredible a playmaker he is (and how Duncan Keith didn’t give Henrik any hard elbows to injure him). There’s no other story like the Sedins in all of sports – usually brothers go to
opposing teams and sports fans get excited when they play each other (hello Peyton vs. Eli), but maneuvering by now-Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke at the 1999 NHL draft assured the Sedins will forever be linked with each other. Alone, they’re both extraordinary players, but that added twin chemistry makes them that much more dangerous.
Kings: Jonathan Quick – No-brainer here. 99.9% of Kings fans are gonna agree that Quick – 1.95 goals against average, .929 save percentage, 10 shutouts, is the reason the Kings are in the playoffs, bar none. It’s ironic when you consider a couple years back, when
Quick was first named starting goaltender, everyone in the hockey world – and I mean just about everyone, assumed he was filler until Jonathan Bernier, a touted prospect, was ready to take command. Nobody expected him to put the entire franchise on his back,
battling through 0-0 games as his teammates couldn’t get a single goal in. Los Angeles is second-to-last in the entire NHL for team goals scored, yet they’re in the playoffs. If that doesn’t speak to the tremendous play of Quick, I don’t know what does.
Most Wonderful Surprise:
Canucks: Kevin Bieksa – With Christian Ehrhoff leaving as a free agent last season to sign a mega-deal with the Buffalo Sabres, it made fans question who would step up on the blueline for the Canucks. Alex Edler & Dan Hamhuis both did their part, but it was Bieksa who stepped his game up the most. Around this time last season, Nucks fans were calling for Bieksa to be traded, now he’s firmly become an integral part of their team.
Kings: Justin Williams – Prior to this season, Justin Williams was known for a couple things. Being injury-prone. Having two good seasons with Carolina from 2005-07. Getting confused with another NHLer, Jason Williams. But after being put on Anze Kopitar’s line, Williams stayed healthy and managed to net 22 goals for a team that needed them. Tremendous rebound considering he scored 23 goals combined in his last four seasons.
Canucks: Keith Ballard – While Bieksa stepped up his play, Ballard did the exact opposite. Acquired in a trade that included Islanders winger Michael Grabner, Ballard was thought to be an offensive defenseman who could contribute on the power play. Instead, he was either injured, scratched, or given bottom-pairing minutes while earning a hefty paycheck. Vancouver needs to find a way to clear his $4.2 million off the books this upcoming offseason.
Kings: Dustin Penner – Speaking of trades that backfired, I’m sure the Kings would love to leave Penner’s 17 points back in Edmonton. There’s actually a handful of Kings players who’ve been disappointments – Jared Stoll, Drew Doughty, even gasp Mike Richards, but Penner has been the absolute worst. As an upcoming free agent, he picked a bad year to contribute so little.
Canucks: Roberto Luongo – At the end of the day, it’s all about Luongo. If Luongo plays to the best of his ability, there’s no team in the NHL that can match the depth of the Canucks. If he starts letting in 6-7 goals a game and lets the harsh Vancouver media get to him, they’ll spend another year watching another team lift the Cup. Like the Kings with Bernier, Vancouver also has a talented young goalie waiting in the wings with Cory Schneider, and if Luongo gets blamed for another post-season collapse, the Canucks may look to move him and his contract elsewhere.
Kings: Drew Doughty – The former 2nd overall pick had a rough offseason, as a restricted free agent he couldn’t agree on a contract with the Kings. Eventually the Kings relented and offered him a gigantic contract. As a 20-year-old defenseman nominated for the
Norris (best Dman) Trophy, Doughty looked like a sure star. However, he’s definitely had a down year since earning his money. He’ll need to step up and play like a true #1 – especially after the Kings traded Jack Johnson during the season.
Canucks: Daniel Sedin – After Chicago Blackhawk Duncan Keith gave Daniel a nasty elbow, Canucks fans were outraged at the blatant attack. Keith served a suspension, but Daniel suffered a concussion and is only now hoping to get back for the playoffs. Hopefully Daniel is healthy, but we’ve all seen top players come back too soon, and the physical nature of the playoffs means hard-hitting Kings like Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi may target Daniel.
Kings: Jeff Carter – After Columbus put together a sizable package to acquire Carter from the Flyers in the offseason, they soon hit a snag: Carter hated Columbus. So again, they traded him to the Kings, looking desperately for a way to get goals. Reunited with former
Flyer Mike Richards should bring some chemistry, but Flyers fans will tell you Carter has a reputation for disappearing in the playoffs. Not to mention he’s been injured as the season ends. Carter will need to step up and get some goals past Luongo if the Kings want any chance of overcoming Vancouver.
Canucks are simply too good and the Kings can’t score. Quick tries his very hardest but the Canucks still sweep in 4.