18 April 2019
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The Slant - "Nab that netminder"

CBC Playoff Pool Udate

The Los Angeles Kings stuck it to the Vancouver Canucks on home ice, first grabbing a 1-1 split in British Columbia, and now holding a 2-1 series lead after Monday night's 5-3 home win in Game #3 of the opening round series. This is more than young superstars Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty making an indelible mark on the powerplay and an underappreciated goalie holding the fort.

Frolov on LuThe Canucks are giving the Kings every reason to believe that they can hang around further. Taking a look at the circumstances surrounding Roberto Luongo being pulled from last night's contest, it is obvious that Luongo did not want to be relieved, trying to avoid the eye contact of the bench. With roughly 26 minutes left to play and the second best offense in the league gunning for Vancouver, hope remained. The Canucks brought in Andrew Raycroft and yes, responded with two goals (one disallowed), but in the long term view, this hurts them worse and is short-sighted.

A downright chess match, this may serve as the epitome of the entire NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs as they stand. Would you expect anything less from a team that has Ron Hextall as an Assistant General Manager and Bill Ranford as the goaltending coach? This team of wily veterans, former Stanley Cup Champions, and talent oozing youngsters now believe. It has grit and speed, with experience in places and desire where it counts.

Anze and Co.

The Canucks were heavily favoured as the #3 seed heading into the series against the upstart Kings. What many did not realize is that the Kings are built to win now, and later. With goaltending the main question mark, Jonathan Quick has thus far answered every critic and has given L.A. a chance to stay in and play to their strengths. The battered Vancouver blueline, sorely missing stalwart Willie Mitchell, is forced to keep up to the rapier-like forecheck of captain Dustin Brown, or the passing plays of an active and devastating powerplay that can do no wrong.

Head Coach Terry Murray was given a squad built by one of the most respected General Managers in the realm of hockey, Dean Lombardi. Lombardi gave the San Jose Sharks the foundation that has proved to be a perennial powerhouse before taking this job in southern California, rebuilding one of the original congratexpansion clubs. It began with the careful and studious drafting that it takes to zero in on a quality forward, like Wayne Simmonds, and make him an NHL producer in short order. Having the brass tacks to make available roster room and recognizing the value you have in a player, without compromising structure and chemistry, is a skill that can be easily glossed over.

Next Lombardi shifted to quality trades and astute free agent selections, picking up defensemen Jack Johnson, Matt Greene, Rob Scuderi, and Sean O'Donnell over a few short years while adding Jeff Halpern, Frederik ModinJarret Stoll, and Ryan Smyth. A deep and maturing goaltending system provides the trestle that such a group will require now and beyond.

Lu

After the Canucks took a 1-0 lead in the series, Murray retorted with a locker room jolt, benching top line winger Justin Williams (making $3.5 against the salary cap) in favour of fourth line sandpaper merchant Richard Clune ($625,000). Clune made his presence known in the warm-up, chiding Luongo and other Canucks and driving his team's energy level up even further later in the game. Notice has been served.

Vancouver should not lose focus of the fact that as it stands they are still the better team. They stand to lose more than the series if they give up a psychological edge as well.

 

20 April 2010 / Robin Keith Thompson

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