NHL Playoffs : 5 Key Takeaways for the Vancouver Canucks Following Game 4
The people of Vancouver have breathed a giant sigh of relief; their team was not swept from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles. Turns out the Vancouver Canucks came to play on Wednesday and weren't about to back down from anything the Kings threw towards them.
Despite giving up the all-important first goal, the Canucks did not back down. Their power play finally came together, and Alex Edler evened the game up on a shot from the point with the man advantage in the first. Henrik Sedin also scored a power-play marker in the game. The Canucks staved off elimination for at least one more game with a 3-1 victory.
Cory Schneider played an excellent game, keeping the Kings' offence to just one goal, and made 43 saves in the victory. It is safe to say he will be the Canucks starter from here on out this postseason.
Everything that had gone wrong the past three games seemed to go right for the Canucks in this game, and there are plenty of positives to take away from their big victory.
Shut Down the Kings' Top Players
In the Vancouver Canucks' Game 4 victory over the LA Kings, they were able to do something they hadn't been able to do in the first three games: shut down and contain the Kings' top players.
The Kings' stars—namely Mike Richards and Dustin Brown—had been the thorn in the Canucks' side up until now, .
Whether it was head coach Alain Vigneault's changed strategy, desperation or even the return of Daniel Sedin to the Canucks lineup creating some sort of new energy, Vancouver was able to tame the beasts of the Kings.
Other than a late penalty shot by Dustin Brown, which was stopped by Schneider, we didn't hear his name as often as we had in the first three games. Similarly to Brown, Mike Richards was primarily a non-factor in Game 4, and his battle with Ryan Kesler was clearly won by Kesler for the first time all series.
The Kings' top defencemen were also kept at bay throughout the game, and it aided the Canucks in their ability to advance the puck and create scoring chances. Despite being outshot, Vancouver was able to keep the quality scoring chances by the Kings' stars to a minimum, which was a big factor in winning Game 4
The Power Play Worked!
Entering Game 4, the Vancouver Canucks had the worst power play this postseason. Their stat line read 0/14 and minus-2 as they allowed Dustin Brown two shorthanded markers in Game 2. With the reuniting of the Sedin twins, the luck of the Canucks' power play completely changed in Game 4.
Two of the Canucks' three goals in the game came with the man advantage on just three opportunities.
Another added bonus was that the Canucks have gone back to what has worked all season long for them on the power play: getting their defence involved with shots from the point through traffic. Both Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa scored power-play markers, and both goals were scored with significant traffic in front of LA Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
It is easy to say one of the biggest takeaways from Game 4 was the success of Vancouver's power play, especially as it had gone practically dormant down the stretch and into the postseason.
They Played Intense and on Edge, Without Taking Bad Penalties
The Vancouver gave the Los Angeles Kings just three power-play opportunities on Wednesday night, a far cry from the average of seven they were allowing them in the first three games of the series.
One of the big reasons the Canucks were able to stay out of the box is that they were playing disciplined. Of the three power plays given up by the Canucks, maybe one of the calls was a bad penalty, but even at that, the penalties were good ones that you have to take to save a goal or something bad from happening to your team.
Another aspect of the Canucks' game that returned to them in Game 4 was their tenacity and edginess, all while being responsible with the puck. The Canucks struggled with LA's fore-check throughout the first three games of the series, and it goaded them into several delay of game penalties and icings. Those penalties are completely unnecessary and killed the Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks showed on Wednesday evening that they can play their style of game without letting the opposition get under their skin and reel them into bad, costly penalties.
Should they be able to continue on in the playoffs taking so few penalties, they will be a lot better off because their stars will be on the ice for more of the game.
Cory Schneider Is Now the Starter from Here on Out
On Wednesday evening in Hollywood, goaltender Cory Schneider was given the opportunity of a lifetime, the opportunity to seize the starting goaltender position for the Canucks. Although Roberto Luongo was visibly bothered on the bench, turns out head coach Alain Vigneault made the right call.
Schneider stood on his head in LA on Wednesday night and had to be one of the keys to the Canucks' big victory to stay alive. He allowed just one goal on 44 shots against and had a pivotal stop on a penalty shot in the third period against the Canuck killer himself, Dustin Brown.
Cory Schneider proved to everyone in the Canucks organization, and all the fans, that he is ready for the big time and can handle the pressure of being a Stanley Cup playoff goaltender.
Barring any injury to Schneider, he is the Canucks starter from here on out in the playoffs—and possibly in the future as well, but that is yet to be seen.
Daniel Sedin Is Back
Possibly the biggest takeaway from Game 4 was that Daniel Sedin is back.
After missing more than a month with a concussion from a hit dealt by Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, Daniel Sedin returned to the Vancouver lineup Wednesday evening. Clearly there were no ill effects felt by the Canucks' leading scorer as he played the entire game and big minutes.
It seemed as though Daniel had not missed a beat as he skated onto the ice for the start of the game, and he finished with three shots on goal, an assist and was a plus-one in Vancouver's winning effort.
Something about the return of Daniel Sedin to the Canucks lineup seemed to spark something in the team, and all of a sudden there was a new energy or confidence throughout the team. They looked like the President's Trophy-winning team for the first time all postseason.
The power play benefited greatly from the reuniting of Daniel with his brother Henrik, and the cycle game destroyed the Kings in Game 4. Clearly having Daniel in the lineup makes a huge difference for the success of the Canucks, and going forward we hope to see more Sedin magic in Vancouver victories.
Canucks fans, believe: your team is seemingly stronger than ever, at the very least stronger than it has been. They carry the momentum in this series now and have all the potential to pull off the reverse sweep.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist. Follow John on Twitter: @JohnBainSports