Two games, two overtime thrillers. No room for error.
It was fitting Game 2 between Los Angeles and Vancouver ended on a power play goal by Anze Kopitar. The Canucks took too many bad penalties all night long and were finally beaten because of it, on the stick of Los Angeles’ best forward.
It was an avoidable too many men on the ice penalty taken 6:14 into OT that set Vancouver behind the eight ball and ultimately cost them the game. But it wasn’t just that one penalty that the Canucks should be concerned about; it’s about the other lazy or flat-out bad penalties the team took throughout.
Pavol Demitra’s flagrant grab of the arm for no apparent reason; Shane O’Brien’s unnecessary shot to the head instead of making a clean play on the hit; And of course, the unfortunate adventures of Andrew Alberts, who recorded six minutes in penalties in nine minutes of ice time, two days after being kicked out for a hit from behind. If Alberts plays Game 3, we’ll all be shocked.
Vancouver had the 18th-best penalty kill this season, while the Kings had the seventh-best power play. In Game 1, Los Angeles was 2-for-3 on the man advantage, so the Canucks were playing with fire in taking seven needless penalties. On home ice for Game 3, with the crowd at their backs and last change in their pocket, the Kings have an edge if the Canucks keep up this trend.
THE MATCH GAME
The Kings started Games 1 and 2 without going out of their way to set a defensive matchup against Vancouver’s top three, partly because they’re on the road. But with the Kings going home for two and having the advantage of already seeing a few different matchups in close games, they’ll have a good idea of what their best options are to use with last change.
Here are a few matchups to look out for in Game 3:
Wayne Simmonds vs. Shane O’Brien – Simmonds’ speed can take O’Brien out of position and the right winger was able to draw a key hooking penalty on one move to the net. With roughhouse Ryan Smyth wreaking havoc in front and Anze Kopitar’s strength and determination buzzing around the puck, Simmonds is a great fit on that line. The Kings like to cycle as much as the Canucks do and this whole unit can cycle around O’Brien all day. Simmonds also seemed to get in O’Brien’s face after the whistle a little, which makes it all the more interesting.
Drew Doughty, Michal Handzus vs. The Sedin Line – Early on we saw the Sedins outmatch Matt Greene a number of times, but the momentum and consistent control in the offensive zone all but stopped when Doughty and/or Rob Scuderi were out there. Up front, Michal Handzus is a big body and plays strong down low at both ends of the ice. Even though he didn’t fare well against the top line in faceoffs, he broke up many passes and makes Daniel and Henrik earn every inch, every shift.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wayne Simmonds – Got a promotion from Game 1 and saw his ice time rise by more than three minutes. Simmonds answered the bell and scored a nice goal off the rush with Kopitar. Simmonds adds energy and speed to the size and determination already on Los Angeles’ top line.
Alex Edler – Followed a phenomenal Game 1 with a pretty good Game 2, but he needs to be more consistent. If he plays with the physical edge he did to open the series, he’s helping fill some of the void felt by Willie Mitchell’s absence. If he doesn’t, it allows Los Angeles more time with the puck in the offensive zone. Edler is smart, smooth and good at both ends of the ice, but he has to answer Doughty at the other end and be a leader on the blueline.
Roberto Luongo – Had a strong game and deserves credit for keeping it tied through all the penalties and through the third, when the Kings seemed to take control. Still, he has a tendency to blow up in a game, usually right after a strong showing. For example, in March, Luongo followed a 31-save shutout of Florida with a five-goals-against-and-pulled effort against Minnesota. Then in April, he had a 32-save, one-goal-against win versus Phoenix, followed by eight goals on 29 shots the next game against Los Angeles.
And of course last year, he was stellar in Games 3 and 4 against Chicago, before allowing 10 goals in the final two losses. This is where a reputation is made: Will he keep pulling through with big games in this series?
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