It’s time, folks, to see what this team is really made of.
The Canucks have been on the rise for a while and we’ve known their post-season destiny for months. We knew, barring a barrage of major injuries, they would have home-ice advantage and we knew they were going to be one of those teams that had to win something big or face the harsh reality of failure.
Drawing the Los Angeles Kings is about the best the Canucks could have hoped for, given all the scenarios possible in the last few days of the season. Detroit would have been daunting and Nashville played tough against the Canucks all season, but the Kings have a favorable mixture of a young roster that happened to be dominated by Vancouver all year, with the exception of one disinterested meeting.
The Canucks took three of four from Los Angeles this season, holding them to one goal in all three victories. The Kings haven’t been to the post-season since 2002, while the Canucks have been here plenty of times before and are more determined and driven than ever to breakthrough.
But this series will be no cakewalk.
After all, the Canucks were knocked out last year by a team returning to the playoffs for the first time in years that was built around a large core of young, emerging talent. What the Kings lack in experience they make up for in exuberance; and that’s not to say they have no leadership whatsoever.
Ryan Smyth, the Hoser of Hollywood, found great chemistry with Anze Kopitar this season and if anyone can lead a team to inspirational heights it’s Captain Canada. Michal Handzus is an underrated defensive player who can play tough against the Sedin cycle, while defenseman and Stanley Cup champion from 2009 Rob Scuderi brings shot-blocking prowess and the ability to munch plenty of minutes.
Vancouver’s prize this year was their depth up front and the fact so many scorers had the best years of their career. While that would outmatch some teams, the Kings have four rock-solid lines of their own that are better built to shutdown and wear down teams in a two-week series.
The Canucks defense is still hurting and susceptible to further disaster, while Los Angeles is healthy, quick, strong and dangerous. If the aforementioned difficult forward units don’t shut it down, the back end certainly will finish the job.
In net, it’s Roberto Luongo’s time to shine and if the Canucks are to take down this series he can’t have any major slipups. Facing him, in Game 1 at least, will be American Olympian Jonathan Quick, who had a breakout year, but slumped badly down the stretch and hasn’t won a game since March 22.
All in all, this is Vancouver’s series to lose and the best matchup they could have hoped for. That said, these are the playoffs and there are no easy ways through. The Canucks should win, but if they think too far ahead, the Kings will send them packing.
This article also appeared in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.