Based on an informal review of online pundits — those from TSN, ESPN, SportsNet, NHL.com, etc. — the Vancouver Canucks are the heavy favorites in this first-round series against the Kings. Out of a couple dozen predictions, I’ve seen two people pick the Kings to upset the Canucks. The general feeling seems to be that if the Kings could get by the Canucks, they could do some damage, but that they won’t get past the Canucks. To be certain, though, far stranger things have happened in the playoffs. What will it take? I’ve picked out the top three matchups that I believe the Kings must win in order for them to have a chance to upset the Canucks. What other areas/matchups would you pick?

1. QUICK VS. LUONGO
At the start of every playoff series, the spotlight grows hotter on the two goalies. Perhaps in none of this year’s eight series will the goalies be under more scrutiny than in this one. Jonathan Quick is seen as the Great Masked Hope for the Kings. Correctly or not, the widely-held view, among NHL pundits, is that Quick will have to “steal’’ a couple games in order for the Kings to beat Vancouver. Certainly he’s capable of doing that, as Quick is expected to be a Vezina Trophy finalist this season, but Quick looked less than dominant down the stretch in the regular season, and his first two playoff series weren’t stellar. Across the ice, Roberto Luongo will be watched very closely. Luongo is an excellent goalie, but locally he is knocked for not being at his best in the playoffs, even though he helped the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. If the Kings could come in and beat Luongo in Game 1, the grumbling will commence in Vancouver and the pressure on Luongo would figure to increase.

2. CARTER VS. D. SEDIN
This isn’t necessarily a head-to-head matchup, but it is a question of which injured star will be able to return and have the bigger impact. Carter missed the Kings’ final five regular-season games because of an ankle injury, and Daniel Sedin missed the Canucks’ final nine regular-season games because of a concussion. It would be a surprise if both players were not in their respective teams’ Game 1 lineups. Daniel Sedin is a 30-goal scorer and a huge threat, but Carter’s impact on the Kings is potentially bigger, especially in the first two games. At home, the Canucks get the final line change and have the ability to get the matchups they want. Vancouver will be able to play its checking line against the Kings’ top line, centered by Anze Kopitar. The best way for the Kings to overcome that is to have a threatening second line. If Carter and center Mike Richards play well, the Kings will be harder to match up against. If not, and if the Canucks can neutralize the Kopitar line, it might be a short series.

3. POWER PLAY VS. PENALTY KILL
Goals might be at a premium in this series, which means that every power play will be huge. To that end, on paper the Canucks have a big advantage. In the regular season, the Canucks had the NHL’s fourth-best power play and the sixth-best penalty kill. The Kings had the fourth-best penalty kill in the regular season, so if they can limit Vancouver’s power-play production, they will go a long way toward improving their chances in the series. There might be a bit of a concern that the Kings allowed three power-play goals in a game last week. The Kings’ power play is the wild card. If the power-play-goal gap ends up being heavily in Vancouver’s favor, the Canucks will likely win the series easily. The Kings’ power play was awful for most of the season, but did enjoy an upswing after the arrival of Jeff Carter. With Carter back in the lineup, and on the first power-play unit, can he once again bring some life to the group? If the Kings can keep the special-teams goal differential close, they will give themselves a fighting chance.

Rules for Blog Commenting
  • - No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • - Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other commenters, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • - Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • - Please do not discuss, or post links to, websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • - Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.
Alec martinez

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 210 lb | Age: 29

Born: July 26, 1987
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, MI, USA
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Martinez was drafted by the LA Kings in the 2007 Draft, while playing for Miami University. He has since become a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the 17th man in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

VIEW ALEC MARTINEZ POSTS
Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

VIEW ANZE KOPITAR POSTS
Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

VIEW DREW DOUGHTY POSTS
Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
VIEW TYLER TOFFOLI POSTS

Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

VIEW JEFF CARTER POSTS
Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

VIEW JONATHAN QUICK POSTS