Canucks Review and Preview: Round 1 vs the Los Angeles Kings

With the first round series between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings scheduled to start on Wednesday, here is a brief look at the season series between the two teams.

In the Regular Season

The Canucks won the season series against the Kings, but just barely. They took 5 of 8 points (2-0-1 record); the Kings took 4 of 8 points (2-2-0).

November 10, 2011: Vancouver Canucks 3 @ LA Kings 2

In their first meeting of the season, the Canucks raced to a 3-goal lead in the first period. A Trevor Lewis elbowing major and Drew Doughty cross-check gave the Canucks a 5-on-3 powerplay early in the first period. On the two-man advantage, Sami Salo wired a shot from the point and beat Jonathan Quick. Then, with the team still on the powerplay, Andrew Ebbett deflected the puck off of Wille Mitchell to give them a 2-0 lead. For good measure, Aaron Rome got his 2nd goal – in just his second game of the season – which would eventually stand the game-winner.

The Kings mounted a small rally. Doughty got the Kings on the board midway through the second period with a slap shot from the side boards. And with time winding down in the third period and Quick on the Kings bench for an extra attacker, Mike Richards scored on a deflection to cut the Canucks’ lead to 3-2 and make things interesting. However, this is as close as they would come as Roberto Luongo recorded the win.

December 31, 2011: Vancouver Canucks 1 @ LA Kings 4

With 6 wins in 7 games, the Canucks had a great opportunity to end 2011 on a positive note with a New Year’s Eve meeting in LA. But after the Canucks scored an early goal, just 3 minutes into the game, they let the lead slip away and the Kings went on to score 4 unanswered goals.

Bieksa scored the lone Canucks goal, finishing off a good pass and play from Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Bieksa’s marker was in the midst of a season-high, 7-game point streak in which he had 8 points (1G-7A). From December 15 to January 7, Bieksa had 12 points (2G-10A) in 12 games.

Brad Richardson, Matt Greene, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams scored for the Kings. Kopitar’s goal came after the Canucks couldn’t capitalize on a 4-minute powerplay courtesy of a Mike Richards double-minor for high-sticking. As Richards came out of the penalty box, the Kings went 3-on-2 going the other away and Kopitar cut across the crease and backhanded the puck past Luongo.

On this night, the Canucks struggled painfully to clear the zone. And when they did, they just couldn’t generate enough sustained pressure to beat a strong Jonathan Quick.

January 17, 2012: LA Kings 3 @ Vancouver Canucks 2 (SO)

In their third meeting of the season, the Canucks and Kings traded a couple of goals each before the Kings eventually won in the shootout.

First, it was Dustin Penner who deflected a Drew Doughty shot and scored the game’s first goal. Then, Daniel Sedin scored a powerplay goal early in the second period to tie up the game. Late in the second period, while on a powerplay, Justin Williams pounced on a juicy Willie Mitchell rebound to give the Kings a 2-1 lead. David Booth then tied things up in the third period, converting on a beautiful cross-crease pass from Jannik Hansen. Mike Richards recorded the shootout winner.

March 26, 2012: LA Kings 0 @ Vancouver Canucks 1

The fourth and final meeting of the regular season may very well be the most accurate preview of the two teams’ first round playoff series.

Manny Malhotra opened the scoring just 3 minutes into the game by streaking down the left win and wristing a nice shot off the post and past Jonathan Quick. From that point on, it was a tight and low scoring affair.

The Canucks in particular went into a defensive shell the rest of the night. They mustered a mere 25 shots on Quick with 13 of them coming in the third period. Roberto Luongo was huge, stopping all 38 Kings shots.

Who’s Hot: Canucks

Before Daniel suffered a concussion in March, Henrik was struggling and had just 4 assists during a stretch of 12 games. However, since then, Captain Hank has stepped up and finished with 11 points (1G-10A) in his last 8 games. Just as important, he has stated that he is feeling more confident and wants the puck more.

With 81 points (14G-67A) in 82 games, Henrik led the Canucks and all Western Conference skaters in the regular season. Especially with Daniel’s status unknown (though he did skate in practice this morning), it’s no secret his production will be critical to the team’s success during this playoff run.

Who’s Not: Canucks

After surgery in the off-season, Ryan Kesler, last year’s 41-goal scorer and Selke Trophy winner finished the 2011/2012 regular season with 22 goals and 49 points in 77 games – a far cry from his 73 points last season and 75 points the season before that – including a woeful 2 assists in his last 12 games.

There seems to be little doubt among the Canucks faithful that Kes will find his beast mode once post-season play begins.

Here’s hoping.

Who’s Hot: Kings

It’s hard to imagine where the Kings would be without Jonathan Quick’s play this season. Once thought to be expendable because of the play of Jonathan Bernier – sound familiar, Canucks fans? – Quick should be a Vezina candidate and is easily the the Kings’ MVP.

Quite simply, Quick has been a rock in net for LA. He has a 35-21-13 record, a league-high 10 shutouts, a 0.929 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.95. He doesn’t give up much during each game so taking advantage of offensive opportunities will be key for the Canucks. He’s managed to earn the Kings at least a point in 10 of his last 12 starts, going 8-2-2 to finish off the season.

Who’s Not: Kings

Dustin Penner has been a huge disappointment for the Kings this season. His 17 points (7G-10A) in 65 games are his worst season totals, not including his 2005/2006 season in which he 7 points in 19 games. In his last 23 games, Pancakes has just 4 points (2G-2A).

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