Mark has our annual playoff prediction pool up -- you can leave your winners for each round there -- and Chris will have a lottery thread up within the next hour for tonight's MegaRussians drawing, but this post continues our annual look and more detailed survey of opinions on each individual playoff series.
Weigh the factors, your rooting interests (if any) and pick the winner and number of games in the poll below.
Depending on whom you ask, the Canucks have a tough draw as their reward for their President's Trophy. The Los Angeles Kings are an enigmatic, low-scoring team with a goalie playing the way Roberto Luongo is expected to play, guided by a sternly motivating new coach who is practiced at the arts of getting men to commit playoff-like acts of sacrifice.
In terms of upset candidates, the Kings are that classic team that was expected to do better than they have, so the "real" (i.e. expected) squad may rise up at any time.
The Canucks, meanwhile, are simply a deep, possession-skilled team that made it to Game 7 of last year's Stanley Cup finals and could easily do so again. For those watching possession via Fenwick/close, the Kings actually rank higher than the Canucks. How 'bout them apples?
Both teams put up over 30 shots per game and are good at preventing pucks from hitting their goalie. But when pucks do hit their goalie, Jonathan Quick and Luongo do the job.
The Kings, however, are the second-lowest scoring team in the league. Whether you believe they're riding an 82-game long poor luck streak or whether you think fired Terry Murray's (and Darryl Sutter's too) simplified approach slips over the tipping point of quality vs. quantity, that production is a concern.
Swapping out Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter helps immensely though, upgrading the team at two positions.
The season series was not only close but quite low scoring, the Kings outscoring the Canucks 8-7 in four games and each goalie putting up a save percentage over .940.
The Kings powerplay was 3 for 16 in those four games; the Canucks were 3 for 18.
After a six-season drought, the Kings have made the playoffs each of the past three seasons including this one, bowing out in six games to bigger Western brothers in 2010 and 2011. In 2010 that brother was the Canucks, in 2011 it was the Sharks. They're not going to get over the hump until they oust some of those conference big boys, or until the Canucks start to decline and see their window close.
Things That Might Mean Nothing But We'll Mention Them for Narrative
The Canucks' second line has struggled, with Ryan Kesler's wingers David Booth and Mason Raymond each spending recent time in the doghouse. Combine that with Daniel Sedin's uncertain status thanks to his concussion delivered by Duncan Keith's elbow, and you have reason to worry the Canucks offense will stutter.
What Da Media Will Do: In goal, the usual Roberto Luongo - Cory Schneider media soap opera will take flight the second Luongo concedes a bad goal. His play did not prevent their making the Cup finals last year, but it may have prevented their winning it.
There will also be something about the Sutter family, GM Dean Lombardi's roots with Darryl Sutter, and how Darryl Sutter stinks because he's the only Sutter to have played for neither the Islanders or Blues. (Okay, that last part is just me.)
Sartorial Sense: Both teams once had really fantastic original unis before wandering astray into the land of ugliness and trendy blackness. The Kings, sadly, are back to None More Black and add a None More Dull chevron logo to accelerate my dismay.
|Wednesday, April 11, 2012||10:30 p.m.||Los Angeles at Vancouver||CBC, NBC Sports Network|
|Friday, April 13, 2012||10 p.m.||Los Angeles at Vancouver||CBC, NBC Sports Network|
|Sunday, April 15, 2012||10:30 p.m.||Vancouver at Los Angeles||NBC Sports Network, CBC|
|Wednesday, April 18, 2012||10 p.m.||Vancouver at Los Angeles||NBC Sports Network, CBC|
|*Sunday, April 22, 2012||TBD||Los Angeles at Vancouver||TBD|
|*Tuesday, April 24, 2012||TBD||Vancouver at Los Angeles||TBD|
|*Thursday, April 26, 2012||TBD||Los Angeles at Vancouver||TBD|
Pick with your heart, and with your head: Who are you rooting for, and who do you think will win?
Heart Says: Kings in seven. Because I want war, and I want the Blues to have home advantage if they make it to the conference fin-- oh never mind.
Head Says: Canucks in six. On one hand I think this series is more ripe for an upset than your average 1 vs. 8. On the other hand I expect the Canucks to keep on rolling, even with half a Sedin. Like the Kings' last two playoff appearances, this should be close but ultimately painful.