DOES EXPERIENCE MATTER?
Heading into game one against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks have a few seasoned playoff veterans like Pavol Demitra, who has played the most career playoff games (83), and recording 53 points (21-32-53). Mikael Samuelsson has appeared in 69 post-season games earning 35 points (13-22-35), and went all the way to win the cup in 2008 with the Detroit Red Wings. Other experienced post-season players include Sami Salo (62 GP), and the Sedin twins, both with 53 games played.
The Canucks only have three players experiencing their first NHL post-season (Matt Pettinger, Tanner Glass, and Michael Grabner), while LA has 13.
Four of those 13 do have other experiences to pull from. Like Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, and Jonathan Quick all were there at the nerve-racking 2010 Olympic gold-medal final.
"Doughty is a 20 year old kid who was probably the best defenceman for Team Canada this year," said Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault. "It's about going on the ice and playing. Obviously I think experience is a factor when you've been through it before. Some guys have been through it at different levels, and have been able to seize the moment. I'm very confident with the experiences that my guys have learned through my time here, and we're ready for the opportunity."
Though both the Canucks and the Kings have similar experiences playing in high pressure situations, Vancouver has last year’s post-season disappointment to draw from. After dropping a 7-5 decision in game six of round two against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks know the feeling and don’t want to experience it again.
"Since the season ended, we've been preparing here for the first round," said Shane O'Brien. "It seems every day I remember the feeling I had in that dressing room in Chicago after we lost game six, it's one of the worst feelings in sports. At the same time, you learn from it and build off of it. There's a different feeling this year going into the playoffs. We expected to be here, and we expect to play our game."
GAME DAY NOTES
With four days since their last action, the Canucks are excited and ready to start off the post-season on home-ice against the Kings, and have forgotten about their 8-3 loss against them on April 1.
"We've taken these last three days to get ready, and make sure we're up to speed on everything that LA is doing and can do," said Vigneault. "Now it starts tonight, and we have an opportunity and we're going to try and grab it."
Even with the best NHL home record this year (30-8-3), the Canucks know that home-ice advantage in the playoffs does not guarantee a win. Three of the four games to kick off the playoffs on Wednesday night were won by the visiting team.
"Obviously some road teams won last night and that happens in playoffs," said O'Brien. "Just because you have home ice doesn't mean you're going to win. If anything, that's probably a little more pressure on us starting at home. We're just going to take care of business one shift at a time, one period at a time."
The Kings enter the post-season for the first time since 2002, and finished the season setting new club records in wins (46), and road wins (24). The Canucks and the Kings have faced each other three times in a playoff series. Vancouver came out on top in their first meeting back in 1982 in the Smythe Division Finals while the Kings won in both the first round of 1991 and the second round of 1993.
Vancouver won three of the four regular season battles against the Kings this season, with both teams scoring 11 goals. Leading the team in scoring in those four games were Henrik Sedin (three goals, one assist), Kyle Wellwood (three goals, one assist), Ryan Kesler (two goals, two assists) and Alex Burrows (one goal, two assists). Leading the Kings were Dustin Brown (three goals, one assist), Alexander Frolov (two goals, one assist), Jarret Stoll (one goal, two assists), and Azne Kopitar (one goal, two assists).
"Without a doubt, right now any team playing against us, know we have more than one line that they have to be concerned about," said Vigneault. "That being said, when I look at LA's lineup, I feel the same way. I think they have three lines that have tremendous amount of skill upfront, and capability to score. They've got three defencemen that love to support the attack and jump up in it."
The Canucks Sedin-Sedin-Burrows line has combined for more points (264) than the Kings top line of Ryan Smyth, Kopitar, and Justin Williams who have combined for 163. However LA’s second and third lines have registered more points each than each of the the Canucks’ second, third, and fourth line.
The Kings’ second liners Frolov, Stoll, and Brown have netted 154 points, while third liners Brad Richardson, Michael Handzus, and Wayne Simmonds have recorded 109.
The Kesler-Demitra-Samuelson line has combined for 144 points, while Kyle Wellwood’s line of Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen have earned 93. Fourth liners Steve Bernier, Matt Pettiner, and Rick Rypien combine for 33 points. To battle such a well-rounded team scoring wise, all lines will have to contribute.
Sami Salo and Shane O’Brien are back in the lineup after missing last Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames. Aaron Rome is still day-to-day and will not dress tonight. Healthy scratches for today’s match are likely forwards Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk, Michael Grabner, and defenceman Nolan Baumgartner.
MOOSE TAKE ON THE DOGS
The Moose also kick off their post-season tonight against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Moose won four of eight games against the Bulldogs this season, and enter tonight’s game having won their last three regular season games.
It is the 12th time the Moose enter the playoffs. Last season the Moose went all the way to the Calder Cup finals against the Hershey Bears; it was the first time Manitoba has compete in the league championship. The series was hard-fought but ended in favour of the Bears 4-2.
Goaltender Cory Schneider, who appeared in two games with the Canucks this season, set new teams records for the Moose including his 60 starts and 3557 minutes played becoming the most in franchise history. He earned 35 wins this year, a new club record, and second best in the AHL. He also holds the Moose goaltender playoff records for most wins (14), most losses (8), most games played (22), and best save percentage (0.938%).
Canucks prospect Jordan Schroeder has recorded nine points (4-5-9) in 11 games since joining the Moose. He is entering the post-season on a two-game point streak.
Click here for a complete Moose-Bulldogs playoff preview