NHL Playoffs: 5 Key Takeaways for the Canucks from Their Playoff Loss to Kings
For the Vancouver Canucks, the 2012 NHL Playoffs ended almost as quickly as they started.
Despite winning the President’s Trophy as the league's best team in the regular season for the second straight year, the Canucks were admittedly shocked by the L.A. Kings in the first round, losing the series 4-1.
Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned by the Canucks' apparent shock and disbelief after their quick playoff exit, though. No playoff team can take be taken for granted in an NHL that’s ripe with parity and no team, regardless of how they finish the regular season, is good enough to ignore their shortcomings and assume that everything will work itself out when the games matter the most.
As you’re about to find out, the Kings may have played great, but most of the Canucks' problems in this series came from their own mentality heading into the playoffs. With that in mind, let’s dive right into the key takeaways for Vancouver from their disappointing first-round playoff loss.
Overconfidence Plagued the Canucks
The Canucks may have won the President’s Trophy, but they also learned the hard lesson that being the top seed in the NHL heading into the playoffs means nothing if you don’t show up and work harder than your opposition for the majority of a series.
It’s inexcusable for a team that hasn’t won anything that truly matters to show up and act as if they were going to get back to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals simply because of their pedigree from the previous year, but that’s exactly what some of the Canucks appeared to believe, even though they’ll never admit it publicly.
The reality of the 2011-12 season for the Canucks is that they underachieved for much of the season. This may seem hard to believe when you look at where they finished in the regular season standings, but there were issues with this team that popped up near the All-Star break and never went away. Unfortunately, the overconfidence from the players to the coaching staff took over, and those problems were never resolved heading into the playoffs, which ultimately led to their demise.
What exactly were those problems? That’s what the next slide is for.
The Canucks' Regular Season Issues Finally Caught Up to Them
This problem ties into the overconfidence problem, which caused Alain Vigneault and company to ignore their shortcomings toward the end of the regular season, simply because they were winning.
This doesn’t mean that Vigneault should be blamed entirely, but it’s hard not to look at a coach who dismisses the questions about the power play struggles or the lack of goal scoring or the fact that his team was being outshot and outplayed on a number of occasions, simply because they were still winning.
At least, they were winning until the playoffs began, which was when all those issues finally caught up to them and were on display for the hockey world to see.
Perhaps winning the President’s Trophy was the worst thing that could have happened to the Canucks, because it gave them an excuse to not sort out their shortcomings and use the old cliché that states, “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it.”
The problem was that it was broke and they didn’t even attempt to fix it until it was too late.
The Kings Aren’t a True No. 8 Seed
When the regular season began, many reporters and analysts picked the Kings as one of the favorites to come out of the Western Conference and potentially win the Stanley Cup. Bruce Arthur from the National Post was one, and ESPN hockey broadcasters such as John Buccigross and Steve Levy were two others.
However, as the season took its course, the Kings struggled to score goals and were labeled as underachievers, even though the talent on paper to be a contender was still there.
Many also wondered if Darryl Sutter was the right man to replace Terry Murray as the head coach after Murray was fired back in December. After all, why would you hire a defensive-minded coach to run a team whose biggest concern was its lack of offense?
It turns out that Kings didn’t necessarily need to score many more goals, though. They just needed more structure in order to win more of those low-scoring, one-goal games and that’s exactly what happened against the Canucks. Now they’re back to being the team many thought they’d be at the beginning of the season and it came at the worst possible time for Vancouver hockey fans.
Then again, it’s not as if the Canucks shouldn’t have seen this coming. After all, the same Vancouver team faced an underachieving, but dangerous Chicago Blackhawks team as the No. 8 seed in the West in their 2011 first-round series. In the end, they should have taken the Kings as seriously as they took their rivals from Chicago one year ago.
The Canucks Missed Daniel Sedin More Than We Thought They Would
When Daniel Sedin suffered a concussion after a vicious elbow delivered by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith caught his head, the Canucks didn’t panic and the fans were cautiously optimistic.
After all, the last time that Daniel missed an extended period of time due to an injury, his brother Henrik went on a scoring tear and proved to the hockey world that he could still thrive without his brother by his side. Furthermore, the Canucks posted an 8-1 record to end the regular season without Daniel in the lineup this time around.
The playoffs were obviously a different story, though.
The power play was even worse than it was in the second half of the regular season with Daniel out of the lineup, and Henrik wasn’t nearly as effective without his brother as he was once Daniel returned to action in Game 4. It was too late, though. The team’s lack of scoring depth in the first three games of the series couldn’t make up for the loss of Daniel and, in the end, his injury contributed to their first-round failure.
In the future, the Canucks had better hope that one of these two normally durable twins isn’t forced to miss any time during the playoffs, or else they might be golfing far too soon once again.
Goaltending Is the Biggest Positive Going Forward
If there’s a silver lining on the Canucks' early exit from the playoffs in 2012, it’s that no sane person can point the finger at either goaltender as the problem this time around.
Roberto Luongo played well when he was given the opportunity in Games 1 and 2, while Cory Schneider was spectacular in Games 3, 4 and 5, cementing himself as one of the leagues elite goaltenders along with Luongo.
As I’ve stated in previous articles, this is a nice problem to have.
While the consensus is that Luongo will likely be traded this summer because two star goalies can only co-exist for so long, the Canucks should be able to get a decent return for the 33-year-old former All-Star. Of course, Luongo would have to waive his no-trade clause for this to happen, but if he does, there will certainly be a formidable list of suitors vying for his services.
If not, the Canucks will likely get an even better return if they decide to trade Schneider, as he is only 26 years old and will likely be an All-Star for many years to come.
Once again, it’s a nice problem to have and it’s one of the few reasons for Canucks fans to hold their heads high and look forward to what transpires in an offseason that has begun far too soon.