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The Canucks will need to get big minutes out of big Shawn Matthias against the Kings Thursday.

The Canucks will need to get big minutes out of big Shawn Matthias against the Kings Thursday.

Times have changed and the franchises have gone in different directions since the Kings ousted the Daniel-less Canucks in 5 games en route to their first Stanley Cup.  The Kings are coming off their second Stanley Cup and have, in some ways, a better roster that helped them take the cup in previous seasons and in other ways one which has grown a little stale.  The Canucks, meanwhile, have rebuilt on the fly, and coach Willie Desjardins has them playing an up-tempo forechecking style of play which keeps opponents defense on alert and their forwards pinned in the neutral zone.

Tale of the Tape

Season Overview
LA VAN
Season Record (NHL Rk) 32-21-13 (17) 38-24-4 (13)
Division Rank 4 2
Conference Rank 9 6
Home Record 21-7-7 18-12-1
Away Record 11-14-6 20-12-3
Division Record 10-4-6 12-8-3
Conference Record 19-9-9 19-15-3
Goals For 180 189
Goals Against 170 179
Streak Won 1 Won 2
WHO’S HOT?
Justin Williams LA
3 pts in last 2 GP
Marian Gaborik LA
4 pts in last 4 GP
Kyle Clifford LA
2 pts in last 2 GP
Brayden McNabb LA
3 pts in last 3 GP
Jake Muzzin LA
3 pts in last 3 GP
WHO’S NOT?
Tyler Toffoli LA
0 pts in last 3 GP
WHO’S HOT?
Radim Vrbata VAN
6 pts in last 5 GP
Daniel Sedin VAN
11 pts in last 10 GP
Dan Hamhuis VAN
5 pts in last 6 GP
Jannik Hansen VAN
11 pts in last 13 GP
Eddie Lack VAN
2-0-0, 1.50, .957 in last 2 GPI
WHO’S NOT?
Alexandre Burrows VAN
0 pts in last 3 GP
Canucks fans are hoping the return of Tanev solidifies their playoff bid.

Canucks fans are hoping the return of Tanev solidifies their playoff bid.

Other Intangibles:

LA:  The Kings talismen are not getting it done as a whole.  Other than Jeff Carter and, lately, Gaborik, who missed some games with an injury, the Kings have had some trouble finding regular contributors on offense.  Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and the all- but-finished Mike Richards have had trouble finding the back of the net this season. Going into the game vs. the Canucks, who do a pretty good job of shutting down other teams top lines, these players will need to produce.

The win against Colorado was a big one, but the Avs started rookie netminder Calvin Pickard who was pulled in favour of Reto Berra.  While Canucks’ Eddie Lack isn’t exactly Patrick Roy, he is a legitimate NHL caliber goalie, so the Kings will have to be accurate.  Although the Kings have been a little up and down this season, they have a tendency of playing well against the Canucks and are not bothered by having their backs up against any wall, ever.  L.A. is also a very good road team, at least when it matters, have a day’s rest and just finished playing in higher elevation.

doughty kopitar vrbata

Kings’ all-stars haven’t been, while Canucks’ Vrbata has been tremendous.

Vancouver:  Rogers Arena hasn’t been indomitable for the Canucks and they haven’t beaten the Kings all season.  Their record against Pacific teams is only 19-15-3 and the Canucks have traditionally struggled against bigger more physical teams, which the Kings are.  Still, the Canucks have shown signs of becoming more “Kings-like” in recent months, adding younger legs and bigger bodies throughout the lineup.

Some of those legs and bodies are playing quite well for the team, as in the case of the Dorsett, Matthias and Horvat line.  They’re not setting the NHL on fire exactly, but Desjardins is getting timely production and using them in big minutes.  As well, the Canucks have assembled a formidable back line of stay-at-home defenders who take no prisoners and make sound hockey plays.  The wins against San Jose and Anaheim in the last week are much bigger character-builders than wins against the Avalanche and Oilers in a two week period which saw the Kings go 3W-4L.

The Canucks would love it if Alex Burrows could find the net again.

The Canucks would love it if Alex Burrows could find the net again.

Advantage Canucks:  Even though the Kings have a tendency of producing big wins when they need them the most, Thursday’s game feels like a Canucks win.  The key scorers for Vancouver have been consistent, while the supporting lines do what they’re supposed to do.  The Canucks are getting healthy at the right time, though they are still missing key D-man Kevin Bieksa.

More importantly the Canucks mental health has improved dramatically since the January 1st loss to Los Angeles while the Kings, say what they will, have been a little shaky.  As the Canucks younger players begin to arrive now, the Kings key pieces are slumping at the wrong time. The traditional size mismatch still favours the Kings but is not as dramatic as before.  This game will be close, but the Canucks should have enough to get their first win of the season vs. the defending champs and all their hubris.

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The reason why you play 82 games in the regular season – The reason that you take the hit to make the play – The reason why you go down and block a hard as rock object going 100mph – The reason why there is no word “off-season” in your vocabulary

I would like to say kudos to The Coyotes and The Rangers for a heck of a Conference Final. Phoenix showed us that a team that has rag tag pieces can make it with chemistry and heart. The Rangers showed us a glimmer of hope that they should be a threat again for years to come with their young core guys. Will this year be just a flash in the pan for these teams or will this be a start of something great in both cities? Only time will tell, both teams understand that there are a few pieces still missing and there needs to be some additions to their respective teams in the off season if they wish to make a run for the cup again.

Bitter Sweet Good-Byes at the end of a great season

Mike Smith played a great series for the Yotes, he is by far their best player in these playoffs and should be the teams MVP. Wish you didn’t trade him huh Stevie? But hindsight is always 20-20 and anyone could say I told you so. Me…I couldn’t say that because I thought both Tampa goalies were crap, including Smith.

I am a Kings and a Dustin Brown fan, but I have to say that he should’ve gotten a penalty for that hit in Overtime. Not a suspension, mind you, but at least a penalty for that stupid hit. Would it have changed the game…perhaps…would

Crappy reffing – if players don’t know where the line is, than they don’t know when they have crossed it. Next year – here’s hoping for more consistency in the reffing

the Coyotes score on that power-play…mayhaps…would it have mattered in this series…not a chance…Phoenix did not lose this series because of this one (non-called) hit…lots of non-calls in this game. Terrible officiating…but I digress; they lost this series when they were outplayed in game 1 through 3. All due respect to Doan and the rest of team, Phoenix was not built to win 4 games in a row. Something they would need to address before next season out of many things that will be needing addressing for this team. Bettman needs to follow Kenny Rogers’s advice and “Know When to Hold Them, Know When to Run”.

The Rangers did very well for themselves this year in the playoffs. Going forward, they have a young core that has a taste of what it takes to win at this stage of the game. What it takes is…the key word that comes to mind for New York to take from all this is…Consistency. Consistency is a word that a few of

Lots to learn from this season – Torts will deal with it like he always has

the big names on this team need to know inside out. Richards is one of those that need to look at a dictionary and a thesaurus to look up this word and it’s related words. He needs to learn it and live it; this is why you are getting paid the big bucks by the way. I now understand why he was traded; he is a great player, but his disappearing act from game to game or even in game disappearance is frustrating at best, series losing at worst. I’m not saying he is the soul reason for the Rangers losing the series, there are others, but if you were to sign such a lucrative contract like the one he has. You have to know that you will be in the spotlight for your actions on the ice; ask Luongo, Gomez, and any other player who has signed a huge contract. Both of these players mentioned are being run out of the city. Will this happen to Richards as well? If he doesn’t change…yes.

Now, to the main event of June, sorry Euro Cup, as much as I like Football (Soccer), I just like Hockey more. I will however, be watching you as well somewhere on Commercial Drive like I always do with friends and a pint in each hand…yes I double fist.

L.A KINGS VS. NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Who will become immortalized? In the end, there can only be ONE!!

So it comes down to 2 teams vying for the coveted Cup that is Lord Stanley; L.A. Kings and the New Jersey Devils. In the end, there could be only one…until next year.

Both teams have suprised a lot of people, I don’t think many players on either team were picked to go this far into the playoffs by poolies.  There will be a lot of upsets in the fantasy pools this year.

If I had one word to describe L.A., it would be tenacity.

They were all over the ice and gave Phoenix fits all series long. The Kings were out skating, hitting, shooting, and basically outworking the Coyotes throughout this series. Doan and Company simply did not have the answers for this. Like I stated before, the Dynamic Coaching style of Sutter will be a difference in this series. Tippett just didn’t have the answers, or maybe he did, but lacked the pieces on his team to accomplish it. Either way, the Kings ended the Yotes run for the cup.

Phoenix shouldn’t be to hard on themselves, I mean, the King had knocked out the number 1 and 2 seeds already and those teams had a better chance than they at beating L.A.

L.A.’s forwards have shown up for the playoffs with a Bang!!  And they have been spreading the love around the lineups…I mean, they have 15 different goal scorers in this playoffs. That’s almost the whole team getting in on the fun!! This is not suprising than that they are 12-2 in these playoffs.

Drew Doughty’s game 5 antics in the Western Finals aside, he has been

Drew Doughty – The Future looks bright for Him and his L.A. Kings

progressing quite nicely over the years.

“Drew Doughty has hit full stride in the playoffs. He has incredible poise and controls the pace of the game,” said TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger on the NHL on TSN panel. “He was very good against the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes and the expectation is that he will continue to grow in the Stanley Cup Final.”

If I had one word to describe New Jersey, it would be consistency.

For many years, the Devils have been considered one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference to make it deep. Last year was a blip and now this year, very few people at the beginning of the year would have picked the Devils to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Yes they have an aging goaltender that was starting to show his age last year and this year. He might not be the best goalie in the game anymore, nor the quickiest,  but what he lacks in mobility; he makes up for in experience and his

Double Stacking – a lot of tricks he can pull from his bag of tricks…hmm..i gotta do better than this. Off season, gotta find more witty sayings. I hear Mark Twain has lots =)

dedication to evolving at his position. He has so many weapons at his disposal right now in his career that he can pull out an oldie, but a goodie with the two pad stack. Are you kidding me!!! And his passing is second to none in this league. This was the difference in the series against New York in my honest opinion,  he exposed the inexperience of the Rangers player because he was in their heads. With the thought that if they might get caught in a change while Brodeur passes it up the ice to a streaking Devils forward might make you second guess yourself and in doing so…maybe you stay on the ice a little longer than your coach would’ve liked…maybe you hesitate for that split second and now you are caught with the wrong line and in your own zone exhausted.

Henrique scores his second game winning goal to clinch the Eastern Conference Title

The Devils have elite players in Parise, Kovalchuk, and Zajac that can get it done on the scoresheet; they also have guys at every position who are willing to work hard and I’m going to throw Henrique into this mix as well. Will this hard work payoff against a team like the Kings? The size and speed of the Kings are going to present the Devils with a lot of problems; problems that they have not faced in the Eastern Conference. You say the East has these in spades? Well yes they do in individual players, but they do not have them together in one package like the Western Conference teams have.

I believe that if the Devils had any hope of winning The Cup; the difference maker in this series will be Ilya Kovalchuk.

“I don’t like some of his antics but you’ve got to take the good with the bad and the good is real good,” said NHL on TSN analyst Marc Crawford. “He’s got breakaway speed and an outstanding shot and he’s playing big in big games.”

This is going to be a great series, some questions will be answered. What are these questions you may ask?

Well like…will the Kings be able to win their first Stanley Cup ever? Can a team

Quick stops yet another puck – get use to it people, there’s gonna be lots of this in the Finals

lead by a fiesty leader do what the Kings of yore let by the Great One could not? Or will Brodeur end his career by winning another ring?

In the End of the Day, I do want the Devils to win this one, but if I was a betting man; my money has to go to the Kings in Winning this one in 6 games.

Cheers everyone!! Here’s to a great Stanley Cup Finals.

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