Canucks to Embrace the Hate, Even Strength Play vs. Confident Kings in Game Two

Luongo vs. the world.

Luongo vs. the world.

The sky is falling in the city of Vancouver, and spring has barely sprung. Following with the seasons, the Vancouver Canucks have taken only a few strides out of the starting gate but have had a tough start to the Stanley Cup Finals, dropping their Game One matchup against the Kings for the first time since  2007 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The ghosts of playoff past came back to haunt the Canucks in Game One, allowing the Kings to capitalize on a number of old tricks to take the first game of the series, cutting down home ice advantage in the process. Mike Richards and the Kings took advantage of Vancouver’s suspect special teams play on Wednesday, converting a pair of power play goals to quiet the home crowd after Alex Burrows gave fans something to cheer about with an early lead.

Darryl Sutter’s Kings played to the importance of the power play during Game One, keeping the trash-talking to a minimum and keeping out of the scrums in an attempt to avoid trading power plays with the Canucks. As it turns out, the Kings may as well trade special teams chances all series, the Canucks can’t seem to keep it running hot during the post-season.

While the narrative was blown well out of proportion last June, the big bad Bruins did manage to bully the Canucks effectively during last year’s Cup finals, taking advantage of Vancouver’s toothless power play on the way to victory. A year later the Canucks appear to be falling into the same old patterns after a putrid power play shifted around the ice on Monday, obviously missing a key piece to the puzzle. With or without Daniel Sedin, the Canucks must find a way to get their power play clicking to keep the Kings honest. Calls may be hard to come by  for the Canucks after Ryan Kesler did his best to validate Vancouver’s not-so-tough reputation during Game One.

Vancouver's reputation is slightly suspect.

Vancouver's reputation is slightly suspect.

Via /R/Hockey, Vancouver’s reputation on the ice is slightly suspect.

The home team was distracted by post-whistle antics, trash-talking and other forms of “gamesmanship” during Game One, but can expect different treatment from the referees tonight after it was clear the Canucks were doing their best to earn the extra call on Wednesday.

 

While the power play is an integral component of any team’s offensive production, during past playoff rounds the Canucks have struggled to keep consistent on the man advantage, forced instead to grind out scoring chances 5-on-5. With Daniel Sedin expected out of the lineup again tonight against the Kings, Vancouver’s skaters must focus on winning the team game at even strength in order to dictate the types of power plays awarded. After finishing the regular season with the 4th best even-strength goal differential with 1.19 goals for/against, the Canucks must simplify their game against the Kings who held actually allowed more goals than they scored at even-strength throughout the regular season.

As you may remember, the Canucks and Kings have been down this road before. The series between Los Angeles and Vancouver only two years ago featured a potent Kings power play that carried the team to a 2-1 series lead before the Canucks responded to turn the series around at even strength. After three games the Kings held a 7-2 advantage in power play goals, relying on Michal Handzus and a different version of Drew Doughty to generate scoring opportunities. Just as the Canucks awoke from their special teams slumber and began to focus on a more sustainable game plan two years ago against the Kings, the home team must focus on winning the 5-on-5 matchup tonight after having the game taken to them in their own barn  to open the series.

Canucks Against the World

Roberto Luongo was Vancouver’s best player during Game One, and should share his playoff mindset with his teammates after the Canucks skaters had a tough time in front of the under-appreciated one. Luongo was been dragged through the mud in Vancouver, but brought his A-game on Wednesday, keeping the Canucks in a contest they showed little reason to compete in.

After allowing the Kings to dominate Rogers Arena on Wednesday, the Canucks must embrace an us-against-the-world mentality on the ice tonight in Vancouver. Taking the team’s reputation for theatrics into account, the Canucks shouldn’t expect any soft calls against their opposition during Game Two. If anything Kesler and the Canucks will pay for their previous transgressions tonight as the power play drought touches down in Vancouver.

Off the ice, the playoff atmosphere across Canada has overcome hockey fans, portraying the Canucks as villains from Vancouver during this year’s race for the Cup. Canada’s national pastime has transformed into the four-round-hate, focussing a season’s worth of animosity towards the Canucks and their fans. Byron Bitz didn’t do much to help his team’s image on Wednesday after hitting Kyle Clifford with a hard check to the head which earned a two-game suspension from Brendan Shanahan. A chorus of Boos certainly didn’t help the reputation of Rogers Arena, either.

Despite what was a dangerous and obviously illegal check to the head from the fourth liner, the Canucks must continue to force a physical game as embodied by Bitz, David Booth and other big hitters in Game One. For right or for wrong, Brendan Shanahan and the NHL’s disciplinary committee have made it quite clear that suspensions will not step up to the intensity of playoff hockey, and frankly the Canucks need to take advantage of the system they’re forced to play under.

You don’t have to call Daniel Sedin’s father to know it is much better to be the hammer, rather than the nail, in a league without legitimate supplementary discipline.

In other words, World Wrestling Federation garage league rules now apply.

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About the Author: Kevin Vanstone is a long time sports fan and Canucks die hard from White Rock, British Columbia. He is currently attending the University of Victoria pursuing a Writing degree, and in his spare time writes about all things Canucks hockey as well as news and notes from around the NHL.

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