“Pride=Passion=Power; It’s A Brand New Year”
That’s the message that comes up when you type in Kings.NHL.com. A powerful one it is indeed for team that hasn’t exactly performed up to expectations in the first half of the season.
LA currently ranks 8th in the West with a record of 18-14-6.
They WILL be a team on the playoff bubble come April.
Perhaps it was the distraction of Drew Doughty to start the season.
Perhaps prior to hiring Sutter as Head Coach, there was turmoil in the dressing room.
The Kings and Canucks will go to war once again Saturday night on HNIC, a game that once again on paper, the Canucks should dominate.
Here are 5 things, or keys, to watch for. If I said, “keys to watch for,” people might actually watch for keys on their tv screens.
1) The Injection Of Sutter
Since Darryl Sutter took the reins last Thursday vs. Anaheim, the Kings are 3-0-2, including their most recent effort, a 1-0 OTL to Winnipeg. That run also includes a 2-0 victory over Chicago.
Many thought Sutter was a horrible choice due to his similarities to Terry Murray coaching-wise, but maybe a fresh face is just what the doctor ordered for the Kings to get back on track.
On the other hand, the Canucks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and have proven themselves once again an elite team in this league; as if there was every any doubt.
2) The Rivalry
I must say it’s been kind of sad not seeing the Canucks and Kings rivalry burgeon more since they battled in Round 1 of the Playoffs in 2009.
No series will ever live up to what Vancouver and Chicago have done the last 3 seasons, but if there’s one other that exceeded expectations, it was that one. These two squads are familiar however and things could get feisty.
There’s Jonathan Quick, Kopitar, Doughty and Luongo, the Sedins and Kes and more who are all familiar with their foe Saturday night.
Perhaps this game, a New Year’s Eve special, could spark something for a potential playoff matchup and for seasons to come.
After all, the Canucks and Kings will be in the same conference season and play each other 5-6 times rather than just four.
ADVANTAGE: The Fans
Once again, the Canucks will be facing a team privileged to have a few very good players who are all underperforming so far this season.
Thursday, it was Ryan Getzlaf and Cory Perry. Saturday, it will be Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown. Kopitar has 34 points in 38 games; not good enough for a team hoping to make a deep run.
Williams and Richards both have 22 points; far below expectations. They say it’s the Roxy Curse here in Vancouver but we forget the Kings players live in LOS ANGELES. Few too many trips down Rodeo Drive maybe?
On the flipside, everyone knows how red hot the Sedins have been. Thursday night, the twins moved into ties for 1st and 2nd in league scoring, EXACTLY what is expected of them.
Luongo is on a helluva roll, Ryan Kesler is clicking and Bieksa is drinkin’ a lot of milk apparently.
Meanwhile, former outcast Cody Hodgson is lighting it up with 8G, 20A, good for 9th in team scoring.
4) That Homey Feeling
They call Vancouver ‘Hollywood North’ because of the amount of feature film making that goes on here. Well they may as well start calling California ‘Rogers Arena South.’
Doesn’t matter whether it’s San Jose, Anaheim or Los Angeles (and that’s not even getting into Dallas and Phoenix), the arenas down there are always exploding with Canucks fans when the team makes a trip down.
No doubt about it, that plays into the Canucks hands. A Playoff series down there against Vancouver is the home team’s worst nightmare.
Canucks Nation will be out in full force again Saturday Night.
5) POWER PLAY CAPITALIZATION (see what I did there?)
As low the amount is of power plays for the Canucks lately, they actually rank 8th in the league in PP opportunities.
LA ranks 12th in PIM/G, so this presents a particularly good opportunity for the Canucks to become familiar once again with their PP.
The Kings are 4th in the league on the PK, but with the Canucks PP #1 in the NHL, it could be another case of REGICIDE at the Staples Centre Saturday night.
BEST BET TO WIN: VANCOUVER
In other notes, Roberto Luongo will probably get the start after Schneider started against Anaheim. That being said, don’t be surprised if Schnu actually gets it due to his stellar performance in said game vs. Anaheim.
Chris Higgins still has a boo boo on his hand, so we won’t see him until January 2nd at home vs. San Jose at the earliest.
Oh and Milk Hot Dogs…I don’t know.
Once again, Happy New Years.