Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One Preview: IWTG Review

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas; the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Wednesday night, the Canucks will begin their potential road to the possibility of hopeful victory. As you might be able to tell, I’m hedging my bets. After last season ended in such bitter disappointment, I’m downgrading my raging-over-the-top optimism to cautious optimism.

The Canucks’ first round opponents are the Los Angeles Kings – who are bad – by virtue (or vice) of losing to the San Jose Sharks on the final day of the season. Considering the Canucks went 3-0-1 against the Sharks and 2-1-1 against the Kings, the Sharks likely would have been a better matchup.

But what were those regular season games really like? We can look back at the boxscore and statistics in order to remember, but that only gives us a partial picture. If only someone watched those games and recorded what they thought about them in an easy to digest, quippy, point-form manner.

Oh wait! We watched those games!

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, November 10, 2011

Canucks 3 – 2 Kings

This IWTG seems like a relic from a bygone era: the banner at the top had green in it and featured Tanner Glass. Aaron Rome was on a goal-scoring streak. The victory put the Canucks just a game over .500. And it contained a reference to the Salo is Your Pal-O T-Shirt Design Contest, for which Harrison has still not posted the results. Clearly, it was a dark and confusing time.

Daniel Sedin was also on pace for 103 points at the time. That didn’t quite work out.

Sami Salo opened the scoring on the powerplay, then Andrew Ebbett extended the lead, also on the powerplay. That may sound odd, but Ebbett has received some powerplay time on the second unit of late and, depending on how the series goes, that may occur again. Still in the first period, Aaron Rome made it 3-0, and the Canucks hung on through the rest of the game for the win.

The real highlight, however, was Jannik Hansen losing his stick, picking it up by the blade, and making a pass to Henrik Sedin through Kyle Clifford’s legs with the butt end of the stick. It was incroyable.

Selected quip: Regarding Dale Weise’s new hair cut:

I suspect that, after getting used to penny-pinching on an AHL salary, Weise said he went to a barber, but, to save money, he actually cut his own hair. While riding a roller coaster.

 I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, December 31, 2011

Canucks 1 – 4 Kings

In the intro to this IWTG, I warned against attending Canucks games on the eve of holidays, as they seemed to turn out poorly. The Canucks proceeded to win each game that I warned against watching, so my theory was shot.

Re-reading this IWTG, I can tell that I really, really hated the Canucks’ performance, and for good reason. Other than the wizardous opening goal seen above, the Canucks were outplayed by the Kings and only a stellar performance by Luongo kept them in the game early. It didn’t last, however, as the relentless pressure led to the tying goal in the first, two more in the second, and a fourth in the third. Also, who’s on first.

The Kings made Henrik Sedin a target of several cheap shots, including a hit after a Kings goal and a slewfoot/crosscheck combo from Brad Richards and Dustin Brown. You can be assured that will be part of the Kings’ gameplan in the playoffs as well. What actually won them the game, however, was their aggressive forecheck and speed through the neutral zone. The Canucks, playing their third game in four nights, got caught standing still far too often.

Selected quip: Regarding the Canucks opening goal:

It was the first shot of the game and, as is usually the case with the first shot on New Year’s Eve, everything appeared to be just fine. It was only afterwards that things started spinning out of control.

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, January 17, 2012

Canucks 2 – 3 Kings (SO)

If it was clear in the last IWTG that I didn’t like how the Canucks played, it was really, really clear in this one. The Canucks were terrible in the first period and were only marginally better through the rest of the game. This time, Roberto Luongo stole a point for the Canucks, making 39 saves to ensure the game got to overtime.

Once again, the aggressive forecheck of the Kings gave the Canucks conniptions, stalling their breakout and causing turnovers. Crisp passing out of the defensive end will be a key to this playoff series.

The Canucks managed to tie the game twice after going down by one, not allowing the Kings to get a two-goal lead. David Booth scored the first on a ridiculous pass by Jannik Hansen, whose passing ability is still underrated amongst Canucks fans. Daniel Sedin scored the second one with an incredible wrist shot. It is very, very good news that he’ll be back.

Selected quip: Regarding a particularly old-school fight:

Also old-school: Darryl Sutter’s suit. And his face.

I Watched This Game: Canucks  vs Los Angeles Kings, March 26, 2012

Canucks 1 – 0 Kings

It’s likely that this game is still fresh in your memory, as it was just a couple weeks ago. In case you don’t recall, Manny Malhotra scored a weak goal with a strong shot, Maxim Lapierre made a funny face, Luongo was incredible, the powerplay was terrible, and Jeff Carter was invisible.

It was also the game where we really started to noticed that Chris Tanev seems to be more effective in the top-four than Sami Salo, which simultaneously made us sad and excited. That said, the playoffs are simultaneously a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and ball of wax, and Salo will certainly play a large role.

It seems likely that this kind of low-scoring, goaltenders duel will be common in the first round of the playoffs. So what’s the protocol? Do the goaltenders meet at centre ice and slap each other with their catching gloves to indicate a challenge to a duel?

Selected quip: Regarding Luongo’s shutout:

He was such an Italian wall in this game that it was a wonder he wasn’t covered with lizards.

 

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27 comments

  1. Fan#789
    April 10, 2012

    speaking of which, Salo is Your Pal-o Contest results please!

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  2. Rob
    April 10, 2012

    Common thread: Luongo was very good.

    This is a good sign.

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    Rating: +28 (from 30 votes)
    • Warpstone
      April 10, 2012

      True, though cue the peanut gallery claiming that this is because the Kings can’t manage any quality chances. :P

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    • Phileo99
      April 10, 2012

      Another common thread: LAK are very aggressive on the forecheck. The Canucks, ie. Kevin Bieksa, will need to focus more on avoiding those lazy non-chalant passes.

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  3. sarah
    April 10, 2012

    Poor Dale…they can’t all have Booth-like hair.

    ps. Any plans on doing a series preview? I keep reading Kings in 5, Kings in 6, etc. I’m starting to get a little bit nervous.

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    • JS Topher
      April 10, 2012

      Where have you read that garbage? I say Nucks in 6!

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      Rating: +7 (from 9 votes)
      • sarah
        April 10, 2012

        It was on Legion of Blog. Now I realise it was likely intended as a joke. The Playoff routinely rob me of my ability to detect sarcasm.

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      • sgolesor
        April 10, 2012

        Thomas Drance did a very sobering preview on Canucks Army which predicted Kings in 6. I hope he’s wrong. Really really REALLY wrong.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      April 10, 2012

      Comment sections on LA Kings message boards don’t count as reliable sources of unbiased predictions.

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    • the real bob
      April 10, 2012

      All of the NHL media and experts predict the canucks to win, clear sweep across the board.

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    • cathylu
      April 10, 2012

      The L.A. Times this morning had their playoff predictions and even they said Canucks in 6 – so that made me feel better.

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      • tj
        April 10, 2012

        I’m guessing the LA Times, and Legion of Blog, are trying to downplay expectations in an effort to quell a tsunami from all the pool flipping. It’s quite possibly the most cautious I’ve ever seen any pre SCP…

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    • Nee
      April 10, 2012

      Most places (NHL.com, Puck Daddy, TSN, Globe and Mail) have us beating the Kings in 5-7 games.

      Of course, predictions don’t mean squat, but nonetheless…

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  4. Warpstone
    April 10, 2012

    Will a recent history of roughing up Henrik = starting both Bitz + Weise at some point in this series?

    BTW, I would love to see Kassian playing on Lapierre’s wing againvs the Kings. The Canucks are poised to become mirror universe villains for their opponents this year. They have the pieces to counter most tactics you use against them and can beat the Kings on the physical forecheck if forced too. If Doughty starts bailing out of taking hits in his own end, this series is over.

    Ryan Kesler, “Terrorize!”

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    • Kenji
      April 10, 2012

      Mirror Universe? Ah…*that’s* why the twins grew goatees!

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      • Andre
        April 10, 2012

        Miss Universe?

        Twin goats and transgender?

        You’re a sick & twisted mind-bender.

        …….

        Wait, did I read this right?

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    • Mo
      April 10, 2012

      But the Canucks need to be more careful in being physical. It was Raffi’s hit in the first round & Rome’s in the fourth that caused the Hawks and Bruins to push those series to 7 games (playing for their downed brother?), and Hamhuis went out in the final round because of a check gone wrong…

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      • J21
        April 10, 2012

        Honestly, it wasn’t. You really think the Hawks and Bruins didn’t have enough motivation to win games without a big hit?

        The Hawks turned things around because the Canucks got food poisoning. They didn’t just suddenly forget how to play hockey, it was quite clear there was something physically ailing them, and rumors both at the time and since point to this.

        The Bruins turned things around because they were already pretty playing well and the Canucks were full of injuries, and losing Hamhuis in particular was a huge blow. Plus they had Luongo completely figured out by the end.

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      • Warpstone
        April 10, 2012

        I don’t think you’re going to see the Canucks turn into headhunters. But do you remember the message Alex Edler sent in Game 1 against the Hawks last year? Crunching hits along the boards made the Blackhawks think twice before trying to make a play.

        As J21 says, these are pros playing for the ultimate prize. They really don’t need to be “woken up” by damage to their teammates. Unlike the regular season, everything is on the line and I don’t expect the players or coaches to accept the excuse that they needed more motivation.

        The Hawks played better with the return of Bolland and some severe gaffes and poor luck on behalf of the Canucks. The Bruins embraced the option of beating the Canucks to a pulp and failed to suffer for it on the PK. Teams rally because they play better and change tactics.

        In fact, it’s about the only criticism you can have of the AV and Gillis last year: they didn’t have many different options or looks to deploy when a team countered the Canucks’ Scissors with Rock.

        This year, hockey gods be kind, they do.

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  5. James W.
    April 10, 2012

    What did we learn from last year?

    -Injuries will happen, but minimize them in the regular season.
    -When said injuries occur, you’d better have players who can fill roles on the team.
    -If your starter is having trouble finding his game, and you have a capable back up, don’t hesitate to make the switch.

    Consider this – we go into the playoffs with 15 healthy forwards. The majority of these forwards have seen time on every line on the team. As well, of our 9 defencemen, only one of them isn’t healthy, and he’ll be back soon. 8 of those defencemen were part of the cup run last year, and have played with various partners all season. If our starting goaltender falters, we have arguably the best 1b goaltender in the NHL, and he’s played in more high pressure games this year than last year.

    To me, it looks like management did everything they could this year to fix the mistakes of last year. If the Canucks don’t win the cup year, it won’t be for the same reasons.

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    • the real bob
      April 10, 2012

      Plus we also have basically have 2 extra top -6 quality defencemen in the form of Gragnani and Ballard. We also have a 20 game winner in Cory Schneider who they wouldn’t hesitate to put into the ring. The Canucks are more suited to the defensive game that the kings will bring into the rink with the acquisition of Pahlsson and the creation of the “PhD” line.

      In short the Canucks are better suited for the war of attrition

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      • Warpstone
        April 10, 2012

        Kinda. You’d hate to see them emerge from this round in 7 games only to face Nashville/Detroit next.

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        • Phileo99
          April 10, 2012

          that’s why we all should root for the Sharks to win their series vs. the Blues

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  6. Jason
    April 10, 2012

    “a slewfoot/crosscheck combo from Brad Richards and Dustin Brown”

    If Brad Richards was playing for the Kings, I’d be a little more worried.

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  7. akidd
    April 10, 2012

    it’s hard to tell against 1-0 teams like the kings. it may all come down to a bounce off a skate. the pp might be the only place where teams actually get real scoring chances. if the refs call any penalties(please, please, please let’s not have this series be about reffing) it would be nice for the canucks to convert the odd one.

    or it’s all overblown and the canucks have been biding their time in silent determination to strike at the right time. and will do the ‘gorillas out of a cage’ thing and completely overwhelm the kings with speed, skill, puck possession and puck support. and finish off the 8th best team in five. that would be nice.

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  8. John
    April 10, 2012

    The Hawks turned things around because the Canucks got food poisoning. They didn’t just suddenly forget how to play hockey, it was quite clear there was something physically ailing them, and rumors both at the time and since point to this.

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  9. cj
    April 10, 2012

    i love this town it’s so polite
    for all day long ’twas please and thanks
    until i mentioned black and white
    which engendered playoff angst

    i said our goalie’s very quick
    compared to yours he’s just as good
    someone muttered you’re a dick
    (though lui starts when schneider should)

    it’s seems i sense a certain fear
    about your team in green and blue
    i find your paranoia queer
    so unlike last year when you knew

    that surely you would win it all
    and now you dread what might befall

    cyanocitta jay

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