NHL Playoffs: 6 Important Storylines for Game 4 of the Canucks vs. Kings Series
Heading into Wednesday night's clash between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, there are plenty of potential storylines. With the Canucks on the brink of elimination, the Kings are looking to get past the first round for the first time since 2000-01.
Most storylines will surround the Canucks as they were the President's Trophy winners in 2012, and a four-game sweep of the 2011 Stanley Cup finalists would be almost unprecedented in today’s NHL. The potential upset that could occur tonight by the Kings would be one of the bigger ones in recent memory and could be absolutely devastating for the Canucks.
It will be interesting to see how Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals turns out tonight, as it could raise flags for either side and create huge momentum for either team moving forward.
Will Dustin Brown's Scoring Touch Strike Again?
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Dustin Brown has dominated the Vancouver Canucks this postseason. Whether it is through his physical play or scoring goals and creating chances, the Los Angeles Kings' leader and captain has shown why he was kept in the fold and not dealt at this year's trade deadline.
The Canucks must figure out a way to shut Brown down or at the very least limit his chances if they want to win Game 4. Brown currently sits third in the 2012 NHL playoffs with five points including four goals, two of which were short-handed markers.
To go along with his league-leading four goals, Brown has been as physical as anyone in this series with 11 hits and just four penalty minutes. He has terrific hockey sense and knows when to make the right plays.
Should Dustin Brown strike in the way he has the first three games of this series, the Canucks will not be a very confident bunch out on the ice. Overall, Dustin Brown has been the Kings' most consistent player these playoffs and doesn't look like he will be slowing down any time soon.
Can the Canucks Get Their Power Play Going?
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It has been no secret that the Canucks' power play has been abysmal both down the stretch in the regular season, and now it has struggled in their first-round series with the Kings.
Entering Game 4 on Wednesday night in LA, the Canucks are 0-for-14 with the man-advantage, and are a minus-two overall, as they have allowed two short-handed goals to the Kings' captain, Dustin Brown.
With the way the refereeing has gone these playoffs, the Canucks will get more chances a man up on the Kings tonight. Should they finally figure out their power play it could be a huge difference-maker not only in tonight's game, but also for the rest of the series should the Canucks pull off the victory.
In order to be successful on the power play, Vancouver must first occupy and secure the Kings' zone, something it has been unable to do consistently through three games. Then the team can get the likes of Sami Salo and Alex Edler the puck with bodies in front of Jonathan Quick.
The big shots of these two Canucks defencemen have proved to work in the past, so why not go back to them. A deflection or garbage goal is the type of goal that will win games for the Canucks in this series.
Vancouver must get its power play going tonight and take advantage of any opportunities it gets.
Canucks Must Stay out of the Box
A key to success for the Canucks entering tonight's game will be staying out of the penalty box. They have given up 20 power plays in the first three games to the Kings, and have taken 25 penalties total.
It is not the risk of being unsuccessful on the penalty kill for the Canucks, however, as they have mostly neutralized the Kings' power play; rather, it's more a matter of keeping the game five-on-five. Vancouver's best active player, Henrik Sedin, doesn't kill penalties, and limiting his time on the ice throughout a game is not a good strategy for the team's success.
The Canucks must only take necessary penalties from here on out, if they have to. For example, if a Kings player has a partial breakaway, hold him up and take a good penalty that could potentially save a goal. No more delay-of-game calls and unnecessary retaliatory penalties.
The Canucks must smarten up if they want to win tonight's game.
How Effective Can Daniel Sedin Be [if He Plays]?
Noticeably missing from the Canucks' lineup through three games is their leading scorer Daniel Sedin. Sedin has been out with a concussion the past four weeks since receiving an elbow to the head at the hands of Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, but he has been practicing with the team in LA and could play tonight.
Should he get the green light to play tonight, it will be interesting to see how effective he can be in just his first game back (if he plays at all). Will he shy away from hits out of concern to get hurt again, or will he return to the All-Star play he has displayed throughout his career alongside linemates Alex Burrows and brother Henrik Sedin?
If he returns to normal, this has huge upside for the Canucks as they could really get their offense going for the first time all series. However, if Sedin plays tentatively, it could hurt the team's chances further.
This is all yet to be seen of course, and pure speculation, but a healthy Daniel Sedin could really be a difference-maker in this series.
Can Jonathan Quick Keep His Terrific Series Going/Can the Canucks Break Quick?
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With a goals against average of 1.33, a save percentage of .965 and stopping the puck 111 times of 115 shots faced, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is not only making a bid for the Vezina Trophy, but also for league MVP.
Quick has been nothing short of a brick wall in this series versus Vancouver, who has had absolutely zero luck getting the puck behind him into the net. Regardless of anything the Canucks change going into Game 4, if Quick is the same player he has been in the first three games of the series, there is no hope to win.
Quick was the reason the Kings even made the playoffs in 2012, and he will be the reason they advance or allow the Canucks to pick up a reverse sweep against the Kings in this first-round series. As Quick goes, so do the Kings. Should he be unable to keep his unbelievable play up in Game 4 and struggle at all, the Kings could be in trouble.
If the Canucks finally solve Quick and get their offensive game going, there will be no mercy shown, and once the Canucks get momentum on the offense they tend to never let it go. Once the wall is broken down, it is hard to recover from the Canucks' onslaught of offense.
Impact of This Series on the Canucks Going Forward
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The Canucks are aiming for the reverse sweep entering Game 4 tonight and they must accomplish winning four consecutive games over the Kings to move on in the playoffs. Should the Kings sweep the Canucks tonight, the downfall should be interesting to see in Vancouver.
How could a team that won the President's Trophy as the top team in the NHL for the second consecutive season, and made it within a win of the Stanley Cup in 2011, be so easily taken care of in the first round of the playoffs?
Serious analyzation of what went wrong will need to be made, and possibly big changes or no changes at all. This is looking down the road, but regardless the reaction should be interesting.
Fan reaction should be looked at as well. Don't expect a shameful riot like the one from last June, but a more somber fanbase just disappointed over the Canucks' poor performance. Sure, there will be the idiotic fans calling for heads, but mostly just sad, sad fans.
Vancouver will begin its quest for the reverse sweep tonight, and for all Canucks fans, have faith in your team that they have the pieces to achieve this monumental comeback.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnBainSports