After Friday’s blowout, I thought the Canucks might take this game off. And I was right, with the exception of one Mr. Roberto Luongo, who put his team on his back and dragged them into the second round. Consider that the Kings generally outplayed the Canucks tonight, finally out-shooting them, outhitting them, and out-skating them. Doughty, Kopitar, Johnson, Smyth and Brown all generated good scoring chances down low and from the point. But seemingly, every rush ended the same, every cycle stopped at the net with an un-flustered Luongo calmly handing the puck to the linesman. What a performance, especially from a guy who – let’s face it – was not really playing that well earlier in the series. Games 1 to 3 were forgettable outings. I thought he looked like a completely different goalie in game 4, making some crucial saves, especially late. Last game, he shut the door, but had a lot of goal support. Tonight? He was brilliant. This save in particular – PURE LARCENY:
Just … wow. If you watch that again, Smyth’s shot is actually heading for a space just under the crossbar, which means that Luongo’s arms are either freakishly long, or he has some sort of weird, extendable shoulders. That was the save of the series. There has been much empirical evidence that’s come out lately (here and here, for example) that the best goalies in the game aren’t worth the money their paid. I just don’t see how you can quantify the effect of these kinds of saves on a game. The assumption in these economic analyses is that all saves are the same. I challenge anyone to tell me that Luongo’s stop on Frolov in game 4 or his save on Smyth in game 6 are the same as a routine save off a dump-in. If Luongo doesn’t make those saves, this series might have had a much different ending than it did here tonight.
That said, the stars of this series were the Swedes. Samuelsson and the Sedins didn’t just show up, they were an important factor in each game. Yes, they scored their points, but more importantly, they played good, solid playoff hockey, going into corners, digging pucks out, driving the net, and playing defence. They were our best players when we needed them to be, and that’s all you can ask of your stars. For the record, Samuelsson finished 7-4-11, good for second in the NHL in playoff points. He gets my star of the series, though the Sedins scored some big goals in game 4 and 6 (3 gwg between them).
To all you long suffering Kings fans, congratulations. You are the OKC Thunder of the NHL. You have a great core of young talented players that you can go to war with, and one of the best defencemen in the league. In a couple years, assuming they can keep their core together, the Kings will be a force to reckon with. For now, take solace in the fact that it’s not your time – yet.
Anyways, the next round breaks down thusly: Sharks are through, and will be the top seed in the second round. Blackhawks are still playing the Predators, and are up 3-2. If the Hawks win one more, they will be the second seed in the second round, and we will play the Hawks. If the Preds pull the series out, we will play the winner of the Wings-Coyotes series, which is tied 3-3 and has been one of the most entertaining series this year.
For now, congrats to the boys, and get ready for the next round!