Entering Game 4 on Wednesday evening in L.A., the Canucks will be on the brink of elimination by way of sweep, as they are down three games to none in the series. Following their heartbreaking Stanley Cup Finals loss in 2011, the 2012 Vancouver Canucks had only one expectation: win the Stanley Cup.
If they are eliminated by sweep in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2012, changes need to be made.
What or who is responsible for the Vancouver Canucks collapse thus far will likely be scrutinized and analyzed more deeply following their eventual elimination from the playoffs (if they don't pull off the reverse sweep).
Until then, here is what we think lies behind the Vancouver Canucks collapse in this first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It has become almost common-speak in Vancouver to place the blame for any and all mishaps throughout the postseason upon whoever is in net.
Both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider have started in the first three games against the L.A. Kings, and both have been pretty spectacular. If it weren't for the stellar play of L.A.'s Jonathan Quick, we would likely be talking about how good the Canucks goaltending has been in this series.
With a combined GAA of 3.00 and pretty much a non-existent offensive output, both Luongo and Schneider have shown how good they each really are, and have made huge saves in their outings for the Canucks.
So for once, Canucks fans don't use Roberto Luongo or Vancouver's goaltending situation as your scapegoat for their collapse this postseason.
The Vancouver Canucks once great special teams play has gone silent in their first round series against the L.A. Kings.
At one point late in the 2011-12 regular season, the Canucks were first in the league on the power play, and finished the season top six on the penalty kill. Meanwhile, this postseason, their power play is an incredible minus-two allowing two shorthanded goals and going 0/14 with the man advantage, and their penalty kill has been average at best.
The Vancouver Canucks have had the man advantage 14 times through the first three games of the Western Conference quarterfinals match up with the L.A. Kings, and have yet to put the puck in the net with the power play.
Whether it is the Canucks inability to penetrate the Kings zone, or just getting quality scoring chances with the power play, the Canucks special teams is a huge contributor to their collapse through three games this postseason.
Yep, you read that right. Former Vancouver Canuck hometown hero and standout shut down defenceman Willie Mitchell has been a big proponent in the Canucks collapse so far in this first round.
Mitchell is used in all aspects of the game for the Kings, unlike in Vancouver where he stuck to a mostly defensive role, he gets time on the power play, penalty kill and five-on-five. This is not good news for any team, let alone the Canucks who are struggling to put pucks in the net.
With the exception of forward Dustin Brown (+3), Mitchell leads all skaters in the series in plus/minus at plus-three, and has shut down every line that Alain Vigneault has thrown at him. The Kings don't even need to line match Willie Mitchell to a particular Canucks grouping, as they know he will be able to step up and shut any of their players down.
Second to only Drew Doughty in ice-time among Kings defenceman, Mitchell has had a solid season after overcoming a bad case of post concussion syndrome in his first season as a King, and it doesn't look like Mitchell has any plans to have a poor year ever again based on his play in this series.
Not every penalty call can be blamed on poor refereeing, Vancouver. And not all penalties are bad penalties, but the Vancouver Canucks undisciplined play has killed them in this series.
Despite the L.A. Kings only scoring three power-play goals in the series, the 20 power plays the Canucks have given them through three games is completely unacceptable. In addition to the 20 power plays given up, the Canucks have taken five more penalties, which either left them without a man due to misconduct, 4-on-4, or ending a man-advantage early.
Ignoring the melee that the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia series is, the Vancouver Canucks have taken three more penalties this postseason than any other team. Many of these penalties have either been of the retaliatory variety, or delay of game via shooting the puck over the glass. These penalties are so avoidable and don't need to be taken.
Undisciplined play by the Vancouver Canucks must take a lot of the blame for Vancouver's collapse, leaving them in a do-or-die situation in Game 4 on Wednesday evening in L.A.
It has become very apparent over the course of the first three games this postseason that the Vancouver Canucks have zero confidence in their ability to score goals. They rest near the bottom of the standings in goals with just four, and even after peppering L.A. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick with shots through the first three games, they cannot seem to solve him.
The Canucks are averaging eight more shots a game than L.A., and even put up 41 shots in Game 3 and 48 in Game 2, yet still cannot beat Jonathan Quick.
It isn't just the Canucks stars that cannot beat Quick, but it is everyone on their roster. Everyone from Henrik Sedin to Ryan Kesler to Maxim Lapierre cannot seem to squeak the puck by Quick and the Kings defence.
If you can't score, you can't win, it is that simple. All the Vancouver Canucks can do here on out is continue to fire the puck at the net, play a simple offensive game, get bodies in front and try to get some bounces or deflections and garbage goals. If that is what works, go with it, and the offense will come.
Either way you look at it, the L.A. Kings fore-check has taken advantage of the poor play by the Vancouver Canucks defence throughout this series. The Kings have dominated the Canucks D when they try to break the puck out of their own zone.
The Kings fore-check has forced the Canucks to turn back into their own zone, tired them out, drawn delay of game penalties, and even created scoring chances based on the Canucks inability to break out. Whether it is the fault of the Kings terrific fore-check and energy, or a lack of communication on the Canucks side of things, it has been a major factor in this series.
Regardless, the Vancouver Canucks have spent far too much time in their own end in this series, and it has been their downfall. Even if the Kings haven't gotten as many shots on goal as the Canucks have, they have been able to take advantage of the pucks they do get on net largely due to a tired defenceman or a turnover by a Canuck in their own end. This awful puck play is killing the Canucks.
One player in particular who is having a postseason to forget is Vancouver Canucks young defenceman Alexander Edler. Although Edler is a plus-one, more of the plays he has made have resulted with his team going down shorthanded or turning the puck over and creating scoring chances for the Kings.
In addition to their poor play in their own end, the Vancouver Canucks defencemen are struggling with their puck-sense as well in the offensive end of the ice. Too often, they have been caught pinching down in an effort to keep the puck in the Kings end and have it bounce by them, resulting in partial breakaways, drawn penalties, and even goals.
In a word, the Vancouver Canucks defence has been awful this postseason and like they say, "defence wins championships," and this defence is not deserving of one at this stage.
Not to be forgotten, the number one reason the Vancouver Canucks struggles are present thus far in the postseason is Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. Quick is an obvious Vezina Trophy candidate as the top goalie in the NHL in 2011-12, and is arguably the reason the Kings even made the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first place.
Of all the goalies to play every game in their given series so far, Quick leads them all with a GAA of 1.33 and a save percentage of .965, all while facing the most shots at 115 through three games. Quick also stole the show in Game 3 where he recorded a shutout on 41 shots against.
Should the L.A. Kings go on to sweep away Vancouver's hopes at another run to the Stanley Cup Final, Quick could carry the Kings to that very destination and even the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
He is that good.
A hot goalie can get a team very far in the NHL, and it can also stop a team dead in its tracks. For the Vancouver Canucks, unfortunately, they have faced that very thing their past two playoff series. First Tim Thomas in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, and now Jonathan Quick in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Canucks can't beat Quick, they can't beat the Kings. It is that simple.