Canucks Move On
It was not easy by any means, but the Vancouver Canucks are moving on to the second round of the NHL Playoffs for the third time in four years. The young Los Angeles Kings, spearheaded by stud defenseman Drew Doughty, threw everything the could at the Canucks and came close to pulling off the upset.
Vancouver opened the series with a 3-2 overtime win at G.M. Place. It was a see saw affair that the Canucks managed to pull off. Game two started well for Vancouver who jumped to an early 2-0 lead only to give that up in the second. Eventually the Kings would win the game in overtime as well.
In game three the scene shifted to Los Angeles where the Kings hosted a playoff game for the first time in 8 season. The Kings dominated the first 40 minutes grabbing a 4-1 lead at one point. The game eventually ended with Luongo on the bench and the Kings winning 5-3. Los Angeles also scored 3 power play goals on 3 attempts.
With the team trailing and Luongo coming off a shaky performance, hands were hovering very close to the panic button in Vancouver. Game 4 didn't look good either as both teams traded goals through the first 2 periods. The Kings opened the final frame with a one goal lead. Vancouver, as they have done all year, showed their resilience and came back to win to even the series.
The series returned to Vancouver tied up at 2. Game five, unlike all other games, was a completely one sided affair. The Canucks took control early and never looked back as they cruised to a 7-2 win. The game was feisty and featured two fights as Shane O'Brien dropped the gloves with Wayne Simmonds and Rick Rypien fought Rich Clune.
Entering game six, the Canucks had the opportunity to finish things off and earn an extra day or two of rest before the next round. The Kings would strike early. In the second, both teams traded goals as Los Angeles went into the third leading by a goal. But what could be considered the series save, and maybe eventually the save of the playoffs, saw Luongo on his stomach absolutely rob Ryan Smyth who was alone in the slot. Luongo threw up his glove in the last second to grab the puck out of heading into the back of the net.
The Canucks, however, once again showed they would not quit. Kevin Bieksa tallied his first goal early in the period to tie things up. With the game looking like it was headed for overtime, a fortuitous stick break by Mikael Samuelsson turned into the perfect pass to Daniel Sedin who put the puck past Quick with just over 2 mins left in regulation. It was a back breaker for the Kings who would surrender another empty net goal to Alex Burrows.
It may not have been the toughest series, but the Canucks did definitely feel some adversity in this first round and that could only be a good thing. Now, they await to see who they play. If Chicago beats Nashville, it sets up a second round re-match between the Blackhawks and Canucks. If Nashville can come back to defeat the Blackhawks then Vancouver will face either Phoenix or Detroit.
Series Three Stars
1. Mikael Samuelsson - This guy was absolutely dynamite for the Vancouver Canucks this series. After having a career regular season that saw him score 30 goals and 23 assists. Samuelsson added 7 goals and 4 assists in 6 games. His 7 goals are tops in the playoffs and his 11 points puts him second behind Sidney Crosby
2. Daniel Sedin - Despite scoring 4 goals and 6 assists, I would say Daniel's performance was not his best. That could be scary for the opposition since he still managed to pick up 10 points. This puts him third in the NHL Playoffs behind the aforementioned Crosby and Samuelsson. The big part of his game was his timely goals, 2 of his 4 were game winners.
3. Drew Doughty/Jack Johnson - You might be wondering how I could put two players. Well, the simple fact is these to young guns were the quarterbacks for Los Angeles' lethal power play early on. The Kings' PP was primarily the reason this series went to 6 games and Doughty and Johnson were why the Kings' PP was so potent.