VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks will ice a new second line on Sunday as they attempt to stay alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings.
Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Max Lapierre—dubbed by one pundit as the Three Mouthketeers because of their previously outspoken ways on the ice—want their actions to speak louder than words in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarter-final series.
“It’s in the back of our minds,” said Kesler. “We have to keep our emotions in check and just play between the whistles. When all three of us do it, we’re pretty effective. I’ve had years of practice (keeping quiet.) Sometimes it slips out, but I’m good at keeping my emotions in check.”
The Canucks, who trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, face another must-win situation after beating the Kings 3-1 in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Vancouver, which finished first in the NHL for the second straight season, is attempting to become just the fourth team in Stanley Cup history, in addition to the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers to rally from a 3-0 deficit.
“It’s a little different,” said Burrows of the new line combination. “But at the same time, we’re in a tough spot right now. We’re trying to do whatever’s best for the team. Whatever the coaching staff feels is right to do, we’re more than willing to do it.”
Coach Alain Vigneault put Kesler, Burrows and Lapierre together in Game 4 after the Canucks trailed 1-0 after the first period Wednesday.
Lapierre has served mainly as a third and fourth-liner since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the trading deadline last season. But he has played more of a top-six forward role recently, subbing for Daniel Sedin on the top line while he was out with a concussion.
Before arriving in Vancouver, Lapierre had a reputation as a yapper. But Vigneault said the coaching staff has made it clear that he needs to zip his lip.
“He’s been told to shut up and play,” Vigneault said bluntly. “That’s what we expect of him.”
Kesler and Burrows played together for years earlier in their careers. However, Burrows was moved to the first line a few seasons ago after a bit of serendipity determined that he played well alongside the Sedin twins.
“Playing with (Kesler) and watching him for the last seven, eight years, you know what he’s good at,” said Burrows. “You know once the puck’s through that neutral zone he wants to skate with it and he wants to make plays and shoot it. He’s a great player, and we’ll try to have one of our best games (Sunday) night.”
Burrows said the line will try to take advantage of Kesler and Lapierre’s speed and ability to get in on the forecheck.
“As a line, we can create offensively, played solid defensively and we’re going to try to create some turnovers,” said Burrows. “The most important thing is to win the game.”
Lapierre said Burrows and Kesler bring a lot of skill to the unit. He will just try to create room for them by being physical so that they can put the puck in the net.
“We just have to keep things simple,” said Lapierre. “If we get on the forecheck and traffic in front of the goalie, I think we’re going to create a lot of chances.”
The Canucks want to remain disciplined after getting into penalty trouble earlier in the series. As a result, said Lapierre, the club needs to keep the chirping to a minimum.
“Our role has not always been to go out there and talk,” Lapierre said. “Our role is to go out there and be physical and play the right way. That’s all we’re focusing on.”
The creation of the new unit comes as Vigneault continues to try to generate more offence. The playoffs are usually a time for unsung heroes, but the Canucks have not found any thus far.
“At this point, we need guys to become key, clutch performers,” Vigneault said. “We got that from Schneids (goalie Cory Schneider) last game and got it from a couple of other guys. If we want our season to continue, we’re going to need more guys doing that also.”
Note: Speaking in French to the Canadian Press, Vigneault confirmed Schneider will make his third straight start in goal.