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Canucks, Hockey

You Couldn’t Script It: Checking Game 1’s Narratives Against Reality

By aidanbc

Quick! Make a pun! Photo © Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

The three-day break between the final playoff game on Saturday and Wednesday’s opener between the Canucks and Kings has allowed the pundits and prognosticators plenty of time to come up with series storylines.  After the Kings’ 4-2 game 1 victory at Rogers Arena, let’s have a look at how some of those narratives checked out:

Roberto Luongo vs. Jonathan Quick 

What’s the story?

To the extent that goalies go head-to-head (not really), Luongo got the better of Quick when these teams met in the first round in 2010.  Despite Luongo’s 15 playoff wins last year, and Quick’s relative postseason inexperience, most commentators have given the advantage to Quick due to his dominant regular season play this year.

What actually happened?

The goalies posted virtually identical save percentage numbers, but Quick (.923) and the Kings broke Luongo’s (.921) 8-series game 1 winning streak.  The last team to beat the Canucks in game 1 was the 2007 Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks. Both tenders allowed goals on point shots deflected off forward’s sticks, but were otherwise very solid. Luongo kept the Canucks in this one until 3 minutes to go, when he couldn’t stick with a bouncing puck following a weak clearing attempt by Alex Edler. So far, it looks like the matchup in the crease is a pretty close one.

Jeff Carter vs. Daniel Sedin 

What’s the story?

In the lead-up to this series, speculation abounded as to whether the teams’ two injured star forwards would return, and if so how effective they would be. Carter had been out with an injured ankle, while Daniel hasn’t hopped the boards since his run-in with Duncan Keith’s elbow.

What actually happened?

Advantage Carter in this one. Daniel was unable to go after experiencing headaches following a Monday practice. Carter did play, and used his injured ankle to set up the game-winning goal.

Special teams 

What’s the story?

The Canucks’ power play has been as lifeless as John Grogan’s family pet down the stretch, and the hockey media has wondered whether they could resuscitate the man advantage unit against the league’s 2nd-ranked penalty kill. On the flip side, the Canucks themselves own the NHL’s 4th-best percentage while shorthanded, and face the Kings’ 17th-ranked power play.

What actually happened?

Once again, advantage Kings. The special teams story was a bit unconventional, in that the Kings had two 5-on-3 power plays resulting from pucks over the glass and a 5-minute major. While Vancouver killed off six 2-minute minors, the Kings cashed in on their first 5-on-3 and late in Byron Bitz’s major. They held the Canucks off the score sheet on each of Vancouver’s five extra-man opportunities.

Willie Mitchell

What’s the story?

The pride of Port McNeill was one of my most-hated members of the 2003 Minnesota Wild, and I didn’t care for many of them.  Mitchell memorably matched up against Todd Bertuzzi in a series the Wild won after coming back from a 3-1 deficit and a 2-0 Vancouver game 7 lead. Willie then became one of my favourite Canucks after his years with the team. So how would I respond to another playoff matchup with Willie Mitchell?

What actually happened?

Hate ‘im. Mitchell scored the 2-1 goal late in Byron Bitz’s boarding major, and played 24:50 of solid ice-time, second only to Drew Doughty on the Kings.

What storylines will emerge now that game 1 is in the books? Hollywood and Hollywood North’s respective scribes will no doubt spend the next two days penning narratives, and we’ll be back after game 2 to see how well they matched reality.

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About aidanbc

Aidan has been a Canucks fan for (just) over 20 years. It was a 11-0 Vancouver victory over the trashy Calgary Flames on March 1, 1992 that made him realize this was the team for him. When not yelling at Henrik to shoot, Aidan can be found completing his graduate studies in Advanced Bureaucratic Red Tape and Pencil-Sharpening.

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