I know most people are picking the Kings to upset Vancouver in the first round. It's a popular pick based off of the fact that Jonathan Quick is a Vezina candidate and single-handedly drove the Kings to the playoffs. But is it realistic? Vancouver IS the President's Trophy winners (two years in a row mind), earning it in the last game of the season with a convincing win in Edmonton. They last went to the Cup Finals last year and were within a game of winning it. So why the expection that Vancouver will falter in the first round? Let's look at the series objectively shall we?
Here's where the edge is in Vancouver's favor, the Kings couldn't score for most of the year and while admittedly got better in the late stages of the season, most of their stars had a down year and in the playoffs scoring only gets harder. Vancouver on the other hand expects to have Daniel back for game one, and have gotten steady production throughout the lineup and have several players who can break a game open in a moment's notice. Plus their D can and usually does jump into the rush and is a threat to score, LA can't boast that.
LA has one theoretically great D-man in Doughty, two decent ones in Scuderi and Mitchell and... not much else. Doughty has had his worst year since entering the league, his focus and work ethic questioned as he was overweight heading into training camp. Truthfully, if Doughty regains his form again, then the Kings D might just be more of a threat. Vancouver on the other hand has had a banner year for their D, most of their top D have managed to get through the season relatively unscathed, have managed to replace the points lost when Erhoff left in the off-season and is deeper this year than when they went to the Cup Finals. They are a threat to score on the rush, shooting from the point and sneaking in back door. Hamhuis may be the most underrated defenseman for the fact that he can do it all, and do it quietly and Edler had his best year statistically. Vancouver doesn't have a stud defenseman like LA, but overall is better.
Here is the where people are banking on Vancouver being upset. The LA Kings boast perhaps the goalie who should be at the very least a finalist for the Vezina and Hart trophies. Jonathan Quick single-handedly took the Kings into the playoffs, without his stellar performances night after night, LA might be on the outside looking in. Vancouver on the other hand boasts a tandem of Luongo and Schneider. Schneider perhaps is the best goalie not to be a starter in the NHL, and after the season ends likely will be traded to be given his shot. This is why the leash will be extremely short on Luongo, if he gives up a soft goal or two, Schneider will go in. Vancouver has more playoff experience in goal in Luongo, but Quick is the better starting goalie this year, and so gets the nod.
This one is probably too close to call, Vancouver for much of the season owned the #1 powerplay until a funk late in the season dropped them to 4th, which is exactly where the Kings are on the PK. The Kings PP on the other hand is nothing to write home about, being middle of the pack for most of the year. Vancouver's PK is 6th and can be a threat to score, but in the playoffs it'll be more conservative. Seeing as LA's PK cancels out Vancouver's PP and vice versa I say no one has the advantage here.
LA has Darryl Sutter, the former Flames coach who managed to gel the Flames of 08 into a juggernaut in the playoffs after a sub-par season to get to Game 7 of the Finals against Tampa Bay. Vancouver has Alain Vigneault who has coached Vancouver to two straight President's Trophies, multi-year division titles and the winningest record of any Canucks Coach. He is also one of three to get the Canucks to the Finals and only one of two to get them to Game 7. AV's weakness has always been his inability to adapt to the situation, or manage to not be outcoached at times. Darryl is perhaps a coach to which AV is weak to, so I'd give the very SLIGHT nod to LA for this.
Advantage: LA (slight edge)
Again, here is where it's not even close, the Canucks have been there, LA hasn't. Say what you like about Stanley Cup hangovers and the like. Once you've been there, you want to get back there badly and experience will beat out youthful enthusiasm everytime. The Canucks learned from their failures in the past, LA hasn't had the opportunity to yet and when you don't have much experience to draw on when you're down 3 games and facing elimination, it can be a problem. Give this to the Canucks.
I like LA, I think if they could ever get their stars to gel and manage to get some speed in their top 6 forwards they'd definitely be a threat to win the Cup. This year? Not so much, it's hard to pick the Kings when their offense has been so bad for so long and you wonder how much of their offense that picked up was from teams that ran out of gas or had nothing to play for letting up defensively. A straight up run and gun series is not what the Kings want. I see the Kings will collapse in front of Quick and pray to god they can get a soft goal on Luongo and win 1-0. Problem is, Vancouver's ready for that sort of thing and will likely make the Kings miserable with their cycle and forcheck. Quick might steal a game or two but LA's playoff ends here.
Canucks in 6