Canucks good, but not quite good enough to beat L.A. Kings
Rallying from a 3-0 deficit isn’t impossible, but scoring against the L.A. Kings in this series seems to be
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LOS ANGELES – This is where the Vancouver Canucks tell us they haven't given up. And they haven't.
And the Los Angeles Kings tell us the fourth win in a playoff series is the hardest. Well, that depends on the opponent.
And both sides will say the line between winning and losing is so thin that one bounce, one play, one individual moment of brilliance can change momentum and a series.
For two years, the Canucks have been telling themselves that if they execute their game plan and play “the right way,” they will prevail regardless of the opposition. Because it is all about them. They've said that.
This steadfast attitude didn't endear the team any more to those who regard the Canucks as arrogant beyond their achievement. But it served players well. Until now.
Suddenly, it's all about Jonathan Quick.
The Kings' goalie has barricaded his net and, clearly, developed beyond the jittery prodigy he was two years ago when the Canucks beat him at this stage of the Stanley Cup tournament.
He has allowed four goals in three games – the same number Dustin Brown has scored for Los Angeles. Quick has 11 shutouts this season, four of them in his last 11 games, and if he keeps it up he'll add a Conn Smythe candidacy to the votes already received this season for the Hart and Vezina trophies.
The Canucks were as good as the Kings Friday in Vancouver and a lot better than them here Sunday, yet lost both games.
So, it is not about the Canucks anymore because if it were, the score in the series would be 2-1 for somebody and Vancouver wouldn't be down 3-0 and trying to avoid becoming the first National Hockey League regular-season pennant-winner to be swept from the Stanley Cup playoffs in four games.
It's about Quick, which is why Canuck players' positive comments Monday, spoken outside the team's oceanside hotel under a bucolic Southern California sky, didn't ring nearly as hopeful as the surroundings.
Each sunny statement could have been followed by the rebuttal: “Yeah, but what about Quick?”
The Canucks may yet be able to beat the Kings even with a slumbering power play, without Daniel Sedin, and while top defenceman Alex Edler inexplicably plays like one of Vancouver's worst. But no team has devised a way to win without shooting at least one puck into the opposition net.
“It's hard to have a game plan for the actual goal-scoring,” Canuck veteran Sammy Pahlsson said. “That's something you just have to find a way to do. And it's really frustrating. We shoot a lot of shots, have chances, and think we played pretty good. But we still lose the games. Sometimes it can take a little thing to change it. That's kind of what we're looking for now – to find something that can change the momentum and get us going.”
Enter Daniel Sedin, who hasn't played in four weeks due to a concussion but was summoned Monday afternoon from Vancouver to practise with the Canucks today. If things go well, he could play in Game 4 on Wednesday, even if just on the power play.
“Sometimes in the playoffs, it comes down to somebody making a great play,” Canuck goalie Cory Schneider said. “In the playoffs last year. . . [Ryan Kesler] made a great individual play to score a goal against Nashville. Sometimes you need a lucky bounce or need someone to step up and make that perfect shot, that perfect play, and get a big goal.”
Kesler hasn't scored in 15 games. He has four assists in that time. Henrik Sedin has one goal in 24 games. David Booth has one goal in 14 games and Mason Raymond hasn't scored in nine.
“I don't think our guys are discouraged,” Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said. “Obviously, we're faced with a huge challenge. I thought the last two games, we've executed well. But it's a result-driven business and we're not scoring.
“There's a lot of things we can do as far as trying to help them break down another team's goaltender. And we've been trying to do that. He's an elite goaltender. As they say, a goalie can win a game and a goalie can win a series. That being said, our focus has to be narrow right now and I think we can start by winning a period, then taking it from there.”
The Canucks won all three periods on Sunday but lost the game 1-0.
“We don't feel defeated,” Schneider said. “We don't feel as if it's an insurmountable lead and that it can't be done. It just starts with next game and then you never know what can happen. Maybe we come home [with a win in Game 4] and maybe the pressure and the momentum of the series shifts.”
Maybe like it shifted away from the Canucks at this stage last year, when they built a 3-0 lead against Chicago, played Games 4 and 5 like a formality and found themselves in overtime of Game 7 before Alex Burrows' goal finally finished off the Blackhawks.
The Canucks need to win four Game 7s to make it past the Kings. That requires at least four goals.
“We still think if we do the things we're capable of doing, we can score on anybody,” defenceman Keith Ballard said. “We're not to the point of thinking we can't put one by [Quick].”
Can the Canucks win Game 4? Absolutely. Can they win the series after trailing 3-0? Sure. All they have to do is outscore the Kings.
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