Prediction: Los Angeles Kings win series, 4-2.
This is definitely a bold prediction, I'm not going to deny it.
Vancouver didn't capture the President's Trophy by accident; they're deep and talented and are one hell of a hockey team. I'm not a fan of head coach Alain Vignault, and that lack of direction from the coaching staff certainly hurt the Canucks in the Finals last year.
Sure, Roberto Luongo deserves plenty of the blame for that epic collapse, but it was Vignault's responsibility to steer the ship out of trouble and, instead, he simply let it crash straight into the iceberg, causing it to sink.
Speaking of Luongo, I see no reason to trust him in the postseason. It's not that he can't perform under any pressure, because he's done that. But in the games that have mattered most, he has not come through for the Canucks. I strongly believe that Cory Schneider is the best goaltender on this team.
Conversely, Jonathan Quick has been lights-out for the L.A. Kings. He's having a Vezina-caliber season and has all the right tools to steal four hockey games away from the Canucks.
His team is not half-bad, either. L.A. almost wrapped up the Pacific Division, and though they fell to eighth in the Conference, I still think they're better than Phoenix and San Jose.
Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams give the Kings plenty of scoring punch up front, and I firmly believe they can match Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, goal for goal.
L.A. doesn't have as much depth on defense as Vancouver, but they do have Drew Doughty—a game-changer who's clutch, physical and sound at both ends of the ice. Don't underestimate his potential impact on this series.
I think Quick will help neutralize the Canucks' high-powered offense, and his Kings will find another gear and a way to win this series.