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Do You Know Your ABC's?

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
Any team that plays the Los Angeles Kings has something in common with the average first grader: They need to know their ABCs to pass.

The Kings are technically the worst team in the NHL’s Western Conference, but they still have one of the more dangerous top lines in the league. Mike Cammalleri, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown have been dubbed the “ABC line” (albeit by someone who lacked an imagination). But if a team doesn’t know how to defend them, you can bet that team will have a tough time winning.

That was part of the trouble for the Canucks on Monday night, as the Kings’ top line combined for two goals and two assists – effectively the difference in the 4-2 game.

“I play with two great players,” said Dustin Brown, who scored a goal and an assist, extending his current point streak to nine games. “The opportunity to score is there every night. So I think we gel well as a line. We all enjoy playing with each other, so it’s been going pretty good for us in the scoring department.”

No kidding. After Monday’s game, that line has scored 42 of the Kings’ 84 goals. That’s half of the offensive production from a single line.

Even faced with that impressive scoring power, it might not have been a problem if Vancouver’s top line – which isn’t too shabby itself – was able to generate some firepower. But the Sedins were held pointless while Markus Naslund got just a power play assist – when he wasn’t playing with the twins. The Canucks haven’t won a game when both of the Sedins don’t tally a point, and Monday night that trend continued.

Though Naslund and the Sedins did have some productive shifts, the Kings’ checking line of Michal Handzus, Kyle Calder, and Jeff Giuliano deserves some credit for keeping the Canucks top three forwards from putting more than one point on the board.

 Sure, it’s disappointing for us to look at the NHL West standings and see that our Canucks just lost to the worst team in the column. But the Kings’ rank at the bottom can be somewhat deceiving. True, they haven’t put too many numbers in the “W” column, but they bring some impressive offensive firepower. So it’s not a loss that fans should beat themselves up over.

The ABC line just has some talent that’s hard to defend. Anze Kopitar, after recently being named one of three weekly NHL stars, extended his point streak to seven games with a pretty deke that he finished by roofing the puck over Canuck goalie Curtis Sanford, demonstrating that he’s one of the more exciting young offensive players in the West.

Brown had a more impressive night still with his two points.

“He’s on fire, isn’t he?” said Mike Cammalleri, the “C” part of the line, about Brown. “Him and Kopy – they’re both on big streaks right now and they’re playing great hockey.”

Monday’s game was a classic top line battle between the two teams where whichever team had the better top line would win. Unfortunately, that was the Kings.

 But it was an example of what a top line means to a team. The Kings – who have questionable goaltending, suspect defense, and a lack of offensive depth – can still compete, and win, in the NHL because of three big guns.

But Vancouver has those big guns too. And though they weren’t at their best on Monday, when they get firing, it’s dangerous. Because this team has the goaltending, depth, and defense to back them up.

One game of wear and tear is to be expected on the big eight games in eight cities trip the Canucks are on right now. Hopefully on Wednesday, Vancouver’s top line will be fired up enough able to do to Anaheim what Los Angeles’ top line did Monday night.

1st – loss of the season for Curtis Sanford

3 – games the Canucks have lost in regulation since November 3

3 – fights for Mike Brown after four NHL games

7 – hits for Dustin Brown Monday night

10 – games both Sedin twins have gone without scoring a point this year – all of which the Canucks have lost

With 29 shots, the Canucks had some opportunities, but never seemed to have enough gas to finish the plays. They didn’t score anything at even strength, and even though Naslund and the Sedins had some impressive shifts, they were shut out when they didn’t have the extra man.

The Canucks gave up too many cross-ice passes and missed some essential coverage. The sticks in passing lanes and tight defensive checking that usually characterizes the Canucks simply looked worn out Monday night.

If one thing worked for the Canucks Monday night, it was the power play. All of their point production came with the man advantage, as they went 2-for-5 on the night. The Canucks penalty kill was 4-for-5, surrendering a 5-on-3 goal for which it can’t really be faulted.
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