How to tell when your team is about to get crushed
As the Vancouver Canucks are playing for their first playoff spot in five seasons, they’ll be playing a lot of games against the Los Angeles Kings.
And there will be lots of good news and bad news.
The Kings are a playoff team.
They’ve won seven straight.
They’re not expected to finish anywhere near the top of the Western Conference standings.
But for the Canucks, it will be a test of how they respond to adversity.
They have a solid core of young players and are led by one of the NHL’s elite goalies.
The Canucks’ defense has been among the league’s best in recent years, and it’s been one of their biggest strengths in the playoffs.
The Kings, however, are a different story.
Their best players have gone through the most adversity, and that’s why their playoff hopes are hanging in the balance.
The Kings, for instance, have allowed only 1.35 goals per game in their past five games.
Their top defensemen have been suspended, and their goaltenders haven’t played since Oct. 10.
They’ve been able to do it without their top two scorers, so they should be able to keep it up.
But the Kings are coming off a 6-2 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday, and they’ve looked much better without Max Pacioretty.
The team has scored three goals in the first six games.
And the Kings were 0-2-1 with Paciortty out of the lineup against the Islanders.
So what can the Canucks do to keep their hopes alive?
The Canucks need to take a big step forward with Pacieres return.
The 21-year-old is coming off of a strong campaign, with a .904 save percentage and three shutouts in the regular season.
The big question for Pacioress return, though, is if he’ll be able play in all situations.
Pacionty is one of only a handful of goalies in NHL history with a career .934 save percentage in his first seven seasons.
He’s also one of just five goalies to have a .920 save percentage after just one season of pro hockey.
That means Pacierto could be playing against the Kings’ top line or a lineup of top defenseman like Johnny Gaudreau, Ryan Kesler and Trevor Lewis.
If the Kings don’t score, they could be without their most valuable player, but Pacierts return could help the team.
Pacis team goal differential in his eight playoff games has been +9.5.
The same can be said for Jonas Hiller.
The 6-foot-4, 216-pound native of Finland has been on the ice for all three of the Canucks’ goals.
Hiller is also in a tough spot.
If he stays healthy, he could be in line for a long season on the top line with Paciere and Jonas Gustavsson.
But he could also be playing alongside two of the best goalies the league has ever seen in Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick.
Hillers success is a testament to how much he’s grown.
It was evident on Saturday night when he led the Canucks to a 3-2 overtime win over Los Angeles.
Hillerman scored his second goal in the second overtime of the game, putting the Canucks up 3-0, but the Kings scored twice in the third overtime to put the game away.
The final score was 5-3, but Hiller showed he can score with any lineup.
The Ducks could be on the other side of the Pacific.
They won their third straight game with a 2-1 overtime win against the Dallas Stars.
They outshot the Stars 29-21.
The Stars had their best player, Tyler Seguin, out of action, and the Ducks didn’t have a healthy center, leaving a lot to play for.
The Ducks were outshot by 16-10.
But their best players, Corey Perry and Ryan Keselowski, both scored, as did their goaltender, Jonathan Quick, who stopped 30 of 31 shots.
The game ended on a goal by Seguins brother, Connor, but it didn’t end the way the Ducks hoped.
Perry scored the game-winner in overtime.
That goal put the Ducks up 5-4.
They’d get another chance to win the game in the final minutes, but Quick gave up a power-play goal with 1:10 remaining and the game was tied.
The goal was a reminder that the Ducks are not a shutdown team.
But they are a dangerous one, and a goal in overtime will help them get back on track.
It’s not just Perry who’s the key to their playoff chances.
The top defense pair of Anton Rodin and Brandon Pirri has been one for the Ducks in recent weeks.
They played well in the last three games, especially in the game against Dallas.
Pirri had two assists on Saturday.
The top defenseman in the league, Roman Josi,