Goaltending, defense, and the number of appearances Mike Richards and Jeff Carter make at the Roxy could have a big impact on this series. However, there is one major underlying trend that could make all the difference for these two clubs.
- Who takes what faceoffs where.
Seems like a redundant concept, but I am going to break it down with a bunch of lame, boring numbers.
The Canucks 4th line ( Malhotra, Lapierre, Weise) are #1-3 in the league for lowest offenseive zone start % (With Pahlson finishing with the 6th lowest in the league). What makes this impressive is Manny Malhotra drives puck possession north, by starting only 13.2% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone (playing almost exclusively in the defensive zone) and finishing 40.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Combine this with the fact that his shifts are the shortest in the NHL and its safe to summarize his role on the team as
- Match up against other teams top lines in the defensive end, win the draw, move the puck forward and change to allow more offensively inclined players to take over.
Now on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Sedins and Burrows rank #1-3 in the league for highestoffensive zone start % with Henrik starting 78.6 % of his shifts in the offensive zone.
- This essentially eliminates any form of defensive responsibility from the top line, and allows them to generate offense efficiently.
Also with the addition of Samuel Pahlsson, the Canucks no longer have to shelter Cody Hodgsons minutes, and this allows AV to break Ryan Kesler away defensive matchups against other teams top lines. This has allowed Ryan Keslers CORSI (on ice shot attempt differential adjusted over 60 minutes) to jump from 8.5 to 13.24 which is a significant increase for the center. Think of it like a fancy +/- system.
- Don't expect Ryan Kesler to hard match against teams top lines, but have shutdown responsibilities supplemented by the bottom 2 lines.
Compared to last years playoffs:
Last years playoffs saw Henrik start 65% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone (13% fewer), and a lot of this had to do with Alain Vigneault having to shelter the minutes of bottom 6'ers such as Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass, Victor Oreskovich and Cody Hodgson. Players like this were not able to be utilized in a defensive role, and therefore could be exploited.
Glass and Oreskovich both posted a Corsi of -20, and -27 (really bad), Torres a -6, and Cody just kept his head above water with a +2 (again, on ice shot attempt differential adjusted over 60 minutes)
This years playoffs:
With this unique deployement strategy, Alain Vigneault is able to play his 3rd and 4th line in difficult minutes without concern. If teams hope to shut down the Sedin line, they will have to do so exclusively from their own defensive end. If teams want to send their top line out against Vancouvers 4th line, AV will get a bit of a chubby. No line is a desirable matchup for opposing teams.
Why this is bad news for LA
As we know, LA has struggled offensively this year. Daryl Sutter doesn't have a favorable matchup for his top line of Brown, Kopitar, Williams. He can try to match up against the Sedin line, but will likely end up hemmed in their offensive zone. The 2nd line is centered by last years Selke winner. The third line is centered by Pahlsson who many believed deserved the Conn Smythe in 2007. And a 4th line centered by one of the best pure defensive centers in the game in Malhotra.
So with offense being questionable for LA, Vancouver doesn't make for a good opening round matchup for the Kings.
Vancouver and LA are both in the top 5 for fewest goals against per game.
The difference is, Vancouver is top 5 in goals for, and LA is 29th in goals for.
With no favorable line matching available for Daryl Sutter, the Kings are going to be hard pressed to generate offense.
Expect a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 games, but don't expect LA to come out on top.