Los Angeles Kings: 3 Reasons They Can Surprise the Canucks in the 1st Round
After 82 games, a coaching change, a blockbuster trade, a Vezina-worthy goaltending performance and an incredible post trade deadline charge, the L.A. Kings have made the playoffs.
Now, you have to play the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.
No doubt many people cringed when they saw the matchup. But let's look on the bright side, the Kings hold a 2-2 record against the Canucks this season and almost every game has been competitive.
Getting to the playoffs is half the battle and the Kings are already there. Now, it's anybody's game. Here are three reasons why I feel the Kings have a real shot at pulling a major upset of the first round.
It's the matchup the Kings are going to rely most heavily on. And it's the aspect of the game where the Kings hold the biggest advantage.
Quick has far superior numbers when matched up head-to-head against Roberto Luongo.
Goals-Against Average: Quick: 1.95, Luongo: 2.41
Save Percentage: Quick: .929, Luongo: .919
Shutouts: Quick: 10, Luongo 5
As you can see, Quick has much better numbers than Luongo.
The biggest question mark regarding Quick is whether or not he can hold up mentally in high-pressure situations. Luongo has already been there—Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final. He's won a playoff round.
These are things Quick is still trying to do.
But as many Vancouver fans will tell you, Luongo is prone to having off nights and letting soft goals go in. This year, Quick has been almost unflappable, save for a handful of outings.
It's the biggest advantage the Kings have in the series and if Quick gets hot, Vancouver could be in for a very frustrating seven games.
2. Playoff Ready
No one has to tell you that Vancouver is under a lot of pressure. They don't just want a round, they want the whole thing. Fans, TV, radio, newspapers, they are abuzz everywhere.
And it all starts here. Game 1 of the 2011-2012 playoffs.
The Kings, well, many wrote them off halfway through the season. However, they put together a great run and have basically been playing playoff-style hockey for the last two-and-a-half months.
Vancouver has had control of a top-three seeding since January in a very weak Northwest division.
So, what does this have to do with anything?
The Canucks are going from a very low-stress environment into a pressure cooker almost overnight. The Kings have been in that pressure cooker for a long time and are used to it.
It's an experienced team in Vancouver and I am sure it won't effect them that much. It's business as usual. But if the rust of the late regular season is not shaken off in the first few games by the Canucks, the Kings could put them down before they even get up.
With that intense of a hockey market, that passionate of a fanbase, if things turn south early then it might be a slippery slope.
In short, the Kings are playing with everything to gain and the Canucks with everything to lose.
The first two games of the series in Vancouver will be key for the Kings to at least get a foothold and make Vancouver feel the pressure.
1. Defense vs. Offense
The Kings rely heavily on their defense and goaltending to win hockey games. The Canucks rely heavily on their offense to win hockey games (Although numbers will tell you that the Canucks are a well-balanced squad).
Does anyone recall what happened last June when the high-powered Canucks matched with the stingy defense and goaltending of the Boston Bruins?
Yes, I know, the Kings are not the Bruins. Of course, the Canucks of this season are not the Canucks of last season either. They are actually a little less offensively talented.
Historically, defense wins out in these situations. Or it comes down to a special teams battle.
The Kings' power play was starting to click with Jeff Carter inserted, but still remains average and the penalty kill is one of the best in the league. Vancouver's power play cooled off in the second half of the year to about average and their PK also one of the best.
A stalemate really. If the Kings can keep these games at 5-on-5 the majority of the time and stay disciplined to their gritty defensive style, it could be a closely contested series of tight-checking, low-scoring games. No one is more used to those types of games this year than the Los Angeles Kings.