While Game 1 was not a particularly impressive performance by the Vancouver Canucks, any panic from fans and media is unjustified and there is one strong reason to believe why next game and the rest of the series will look different from Wednesday night’s action: penalties.
Vancouver was shorthanded for 15:22 minutes of the game (two Powerplay goals from the Kings reduced the shorthanded time from 17 minutes). That is a lot of time out of offensive potential, including the playing time of Henrik Sedin, however, what leads me to be optimistic about the rest of the series is the nature of the penalties that were called. Vancouver was shorthanded for over a quarter of the game due to 1 Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 2 Delay of Games, 2 Charging, 1 Boarding Major/Game Misconduct, and 1 Hooking. Salo’s Hooking call aside, these are not typical penalties and they speak more to the situational factors surrounding the game than the anything else, and are not a good indication of what to expect throughout the rest of this series and playoffs. With all the excitement and expectations going into the Canucks first home playoff game since Game 7, some nerves are understandable and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that they took some mindless and nervous penalties given the circumstances. With a 2011/12 season average of 3.51 penalties a game, 8 penalities on Wednesday night was the most penalties taken all year and this suggests that the number should be accepted as an outlier since it is unlikely to return. Also, we do not see an onslaught of “being outplayed” penalties such as slashing, hooking, tripping or holding that might indicate the Canucks are competing against a better or faster team. Instead we see foolish penalties (Kesler’s Unsportsmanlike, both Delay of Games), and over-excited penalties (Charging and Boarding) brought on largely from the electric home crowd on the opening night of the playoffs. These penalties are the product of first game jitters, and as the Canucks settle into the series, we should expect that these generally disappear.
Although Los Angeles scored 2 powerplay goals, it was not purely the time with the man advantage that led to their victory; the momentum factors following their powerplay time helped the Kings largely control the play in the first and second period. The onrush of penalties had a trickle down effect that ultimately edged a close game in favor of the Kings. However, a regression to the mean for the Canuck’s penalty numbers could result in a different look for Game 2 and the remainder of the series.
|The red line shows Game 1 vs. Kings|