Guardiola hits backs at Solskjaer’s ‘tactical’ fouling jibe

first_imgFILE PHOTO: Pep GuardiolaManchester, United Kingdom | AFP | Pep Guardiola has slammed suggestions from Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that Manchester City are guilty of “tactical” fouling in an attempt to stop rivals from counter-attacking.Solskjaer, talking before the crucial Manchester derby between the sides at Old Trafford on Wednesday, made reference to City’s supposed habit of fouling high up the field to stop opponents hitting them on the break if Guardiola’s players are out of position.But City boss Guardiola did not take kindly to that analysis and appeared to accuse Solskjaer of trying to influence referee Andre Marriner, who will take charge of the derby.“That’s the reason why, of course,” said Guardiola when asked if he was concerned Solskjaer’s comments might be intended to influence the referee.“I know exactly what I said to my players from day one to the last day.“So when a player wants to attack, we have to be honest and, of course, there is contact, there are fouls.“But when it happens and you arrive late, that is why there are referees — to make yellow cards or red cards or whatever they decide, but never have I prepared a game (to do it).“I prepare the game to do our own game, that is what I want, knowing of course the opponent, but I never said I’m going to do that to punish them or cancel them, making fouls. Never.”Solskjaer is not the first United manager to make a similar claim about City in the Guardiola era — his predecessor Jose Mourinho having made an identical observation before a derby meeting last season.But the bare statistics tend not to support Solskjaer’s claims as figures show United have collected 64 yellow cards this season, compared with City’s 38, with four reds for United, in contrast to their rivals’ solitary dismissal.– ‘Ask him again’ –In terms of fouls, United have committed 201, considerably more than City’s 172, and Guardiola’s outraged reaction appeared to support such a reading of the situation.“I never prepare a game in 10 seasons as a manager thinking about these kind of things. Never,” he said. “The players can talk about it better than me about that — the players I had at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and here — one of the targets is about the counter attacks for the opponents making fouls, never have I said to one player to make fouls to avoid something.“Football sometimes you do that, because football, the actions is quick, fast.“But I’m concerned about many other things to beat them than these kind of things so I don’t know.“Maybe tomorrow in the press conference after the game you can ask him again about that.”Guardiola, however, is wary of the threat posed by United to City’s Premier League title ambitions.City are two points behind leaders Liverpool and the Manchester derby represents their vital game in hand.The Spaniard knows United’s under-performing stars could suddenly hit form as Solskjaer’s team battle to finish in the top four after a disappointing recent run.But the fact that Guardiola likened such a potential upset to Burnley’s achievement in drawing at Chelsea on Monday spoke of the extent to which United have ceased to be a viable challenger to City’s superiority.“Well the tension is there, it’s necessary to complete these kind of games,” he said.“I think everyone knows what we are playing for, we have to focus on the target and what we have to do.“For me, United remains an incredible team, of course, the last 20 or 25 years always there. The past three or four, that can happen in terms of a long history.“For one specific game, they would be dangerous. I know in the beginning how strong they’ll be in terms of intensity and we’ll have to handle it.”Share on: WhatsApplast_img read more

Takeovers that changed Premier League history

first_imgMan City became ‘noisy neighbours’ of Man Utd after Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group takeover.London, United Kingdom | AFP | Newcastle United’s sale to a Saudi-backed consortium appears to be close to completion — a deal that could turn the long-time underachievers into a major Premier League power.The potential £300 million ($370 million) takeover will reportedly see Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund take a controlling stake in the club in northeast England.AFP Sport looks at three other English clubs who enjoyed a meteoric rise after lucrative takeovers:Man City become ‘noisy neighbours’When Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group completed their £210 million takeover in September 2008, Mark Hughes was City’s manager, Brazilian Jo was their leading striker and Stephen Ireland was being touted as the team’s future star.Stuck in the shadow of Manchester United for decades, City had ended the previous season with an 8-1 defeat at Middlesbrough and were so hard up that Vincent Kompany said the dressing room toilet at their training ground did not even have a door.It is safe to say a lot has changed in the past 12 years.The turnaround from also-rans to the “noisy neighbours” of Alex Ferguson’s nightmares began just hours after the takeover with the shock signing of Brazilian star Robinho — the first in a long list of mega-money transfers that speeded City’s meteoric rise.City won the 2011 FA Cup and a year later Sergio Aguero snatched the title from United with his stoppage-time winner against QPR on the last day of the season.Big spending on stars such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling ensured City remained the team to beat and they secured another Premier League title in 2014.Pep Guardiola’s appointment in 2016 lifted them onto an even higher level and they won the Premier League in record-breaking style in 2018.Clinching an unprecedented domestic treble in 2019 established Guardiola’s group as one of the greatest teams in Premier League history.Chelsea’s Russian revolutionRoman Abramovich changed the face of the Premier League with his Russian revolution at Stamford Bridge.Abramovich’s £140 million takeover in 2003 triggered a seismic shift in power in the Premier League. Manchester United and Arsenal were England’s pre-eminent forces, but all that changed when, as Gunners vice-chairman David Dein noted with much regret, Abramovich “parked his Russian tanks on our lawn and fired £50 notes at us”.Abramovich’s cash landed Jose Mourinho in 2004 and funded his wunderkind manager’s assault on the Premier League establishment.Mourinho won the title in his first season, ending Chelsea’s 50-year wait to be crowned kings of English football, and followed that feat by retaining the trophy 12 months later.Carlo Ancelotti delivered more Premier League glory in 2010 and Mourinho returned to win his third title in 2015 before Antonio Conte landed the fifth English title of the Abramovich era in 2017.Having fallen in love with football while watching a Champions League match between Manchester United and Real Madrid, Abramovich’s holy grail was to lead Chelsea to their first triumph in Europe’s elite club competition.His wish came true in 2012 when Chelsea defied the odds to beat Bayern Munich in the final in the German team’s own Allianz Arena.Blackburn dreamFulfilling a childhood dream, Jack Walker’s vast investment transformed unglamorous Blackburn from a relic of the past into English champions.Blackburn were in the lower reaches of the second tier when Walker became the club’s majority owner after selling his steel business to British Steel for a reported £360 million.Walker was the local boy made good, who came back to revive the team he supported as a youngster.Blackburn had not won a major trophy since the 1928 FA Cup, but Walker lured Kenny Dalglish as manager in 1991 and together they put Ewood Park back on the map.Rovers were promoted in 1992 and Walker’s lavish spending made them a Premier League force.They flexed their muscles by splashing a then English record £3.6 million to sign Southampton striker Alan Shearer, beating Manchester United in the race.In 1995, Shearer’s goals helped Blackburn win the title for the first time in 81 years.It was the culmination of Walker’s ambitious dream, but they could not sustain that success and were relegated in 1999, a year before their benefactor’s death.Share on: WhatsApplast_img read more

Inside Conditions…Bad timing

first_imgYour comments are welcome. Follow @NewPghCourier on Twitter  https://twitter.com/NewPghCourierLike us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Pittsburgh-Courier/143866755628836?ref=hlDownload our mobile app at http://www.appshopper.com/news/new-pittsburgh-courier AUBREY BRUCE Hey everybody hot off the press, according to the Bleacher Report “Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed part of the 2012 NFL regular season with injuries to his ribs and shoulder. This offseason, Big Ben is taking no chances with his long-term health and ability to stay on the field for a full 16-game season. [Last]Wednesday, Roethlisberger underwent minor surgery to have some discomfort in his right knee taken care of, a move that is not expected to keep him off his feet when training camp begins later this summer. On the day of the surgery Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin also tweeted that, “Ben Roethlisberger had minor surgery on his right knee that was the result of slight discomfort this offseason.” I am not getting it but with Pittsburgh being in an almost “rebuilding year” and with this procedure being so “minor,” then why wasn’t it performed (the procedure) immediately after the 2012 season ended so that Roethlisberger could have been ready for mini-camp, scheduled for June 11-13, 2013? As far as the eye can see on the brightest side of this scenario, the timing seems to be a bit on the shady side. Hey, don’t want to attend or go through mini-camp its simple have minor surgery just prior to mini-camp. With the Steelers having to deal with major personnel changes on offense as well as the team continuing the process of adjusting to a fairly new offensive coordinator then why wouldn’t everyone be eager to attend mini-camp, beni-camp or any camp just to make sure that everyone was on the same page and to also have a leg up in the “gory blood and guts” AFC North. According to a story by ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley, “when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was asked about Roethlisberger’s minor knee surgery Suggs told the NFL Network: “You know, it just isn’t the same game when the two teams don’t have all their parts playing. So you’re absolutely right, I do wish him well and I hope for him to have a speedy recovery.” Suggs finished the last line with a big grin, which certainly leaves his comments open to interpretation because from 2004 to 2011, Suggs sacked Roethlisberger 15.5 times, which is more than any other NFL defender during that time.”When you have a defender wishing you well because it possibly increases his chance of sending you to hell that is bad, really bad. Big Ben through all of his success and glory still has not gotten rid of some rookie and novice tendencies the biggest still being; he continues to hold onto the ball for far too long. When you grip the ball for too long only three things can happen and they are all bad.1. Just like in real estate when they say location, location, location, in football when you fail to get rid of the football in three seconds or less then sack, sack, sack is the catchphrase for the day.2. Pick, pick, pick. And I am not referring to the “pick six lottery” or any other game of chance but any quarterback takes a gargantuan chance when they launch the ball after three and one half seconds. Why? Well now you have given the defensive back a chance to read and diagnose the play even if he has to read Braille to do it and most slow developing plays, especially pass plays do not normally bode well for the offense and coupled with the Steelers questionable O-line, well as Charlie Chan used to say, “things could very well get a bit tricky.” 3. The “guillotine syndrome.” According to history guillotines were used as execution instruments and really became popular during the French revolution. The wealthy and upper crust were relieved of their “noggins” rather unceremoniously. Well, when an NFL quarterback is stressed and has to rush his delivery the pass may bounce harmfully off the turf or may sail just high enough that the outstretched arms of the intended receiver may just be the last photo taken of him before he is relieved of his cranium and all of the contents within. There is no time for slacking and B’s-ing. The Steelers are in a dogfight in the AFC North and contrary to popular belief they have a chance to win a championship but they have to play all of their cards right. There can be no false posturing and chest thumping. Bluffing and false moves will be exposed instantly and the consequences will be dire and swift. There are no weak teams in the Steelers division. From a roster perspective every team in the AFC North has a legitimate shot at winning the division title so every division game will be a potential season breaker. See folks the AFC North is so strong there may be two even three teams that may earn wild card berths. They can ill afford to lose any game during the upcoming season because two of their member teams in the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals, have made major and vital upgrades to their rosters and seem to be “primed for bear.” There is virtually no room for error if the Steelers are going to make a run for a Lombardi Trophy. One of the positive things that they have done is sign their first and second round draft picks linebacker Jarvis Jones and running back Le’Veon Bell early, therefore eliminating distractions among a very young team prior to mini-camp and training camp. Big Ben had better begin to perform to justify the money that the Steelers have forked out because time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into his and the Steelers future. If the “franchise” quarterback label that they have hung around his neck is for real then he had better live up to the hype because the last time I checked, “the guillotine has no kin.”(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@new­pittsburghcourier.com or 412-583-6741.)last_img read more

Rising to the Surface

first_imgRed Bank restaurant begins rebuilding By Michele J. Kuhn RED BANK – After a bit of hell and a lot of high water, Kelly Ryan expects Boon­docks to be back in operation in May.Ryan is determined to reopen her popular seasonal riverside restaurant on May 14 and she – and others – are working to ensure that happens.A fundraiser is in the works for Thursday, April 11, at the Oyster Point Hotel, the only other Red Bank business to have to close for a period of time from damage inflicted by Super Storm Sandy’s devastating tidal surge. The event will celebrate the hotel’s recent reopening and raise the funds – $30,000 – Ryan needs to renovate, refurbish and totally re-equip her business.Her rebuilding process is just beginning.Kelly Ryan, the owner of Boondocks Fishery, is looking to reopen her storm-ravaged restaurant in May,“They finally got into my building [on Monday, Feb. 18] and they ripped down all the walls and floors. Now the whole building is gutted. We are getting heaters in there to dry out and in a couple of weeks, we’ll go back in there and put the walls up, the tile up, put everything back up, get new equipment. I’m shooting for May 14 to reopen, no matter what,” she said.Boondocks was already closed for the season when Sandy smashed into New Jersey on Oct. 29 and sent a 5-foot wall of water into the dockside restaurant, rendering all its contents unsalvageable.Prior to the storm, Ryan moved refrigeration equipment to the top of the hill behind the restaurant and stored the rest – fryers, stove, grill and the like – in a garage at Irwin Marine, which is her landlord. She felt she was safe storing the equipment there because during the 1992 storm “they only got an inch of water in the garage.” The walk-in storage box was left at the restaurant “because who would have ever expected 5 feet of water there? It was just crazy,” she said.The day after the storm, Ryan, a Highlands resident, first walked to Sea Bright to check on Donavan’s Reef because she knew that borough had taken a severe hit from the storm. Donavan’s was destroyed.“When I saw the devastation there, I knew we had to get to Boondocks,” she said. Ryan then went to Red Bank to check on her waterfront restaurant.“When I got to the top of the hill, I was, like, the building’s there! Everything is fine,” she said. “Then I couldn’t get into the building because it had separated from the dock and I couldn’t get in the doors.“Then I realized there was all this water shooting out of one of the windows. The hot water heater and all the piping under the building had broken and all this water was just everywhere,” she said.Ryan’s boyfriend was able to climb into a window and shut off the water.“Then we saw what happened. We went into the garages and everything there was tossed around like little buoys. Things were everywhere. There was gasoline, oil, grease and mud … There were boats in there too,” she said. “It was disgusting.“At the time, you just go into overdrive. You don’t know what to do,” she said with emotion.The next day the people at Irwin Marine had a Dumpster available. Helpful friends and staff members threw everything that had been part of the Boondocks operation into the trash.Ryan then turned her attention to the devastation at Sea Bright where she pitched in with the Sea Bright Rising effort.After helping others in Sea Bright for a while, Ilene Winters of Sea Bright Rising told Ryan she needed to begin thinking about herself. Winters helped her get an effort to restore Boondocks off the ground on a website called Indiegogo. Her fund­raising webpage can be found at www.indiegogo.com/boondocks. So far, the page has generated about $6,800 in donations, she said.When members of the Navesink Business Group learned of her plight and fundraising efforts, they decided they could assist and the April 11 event, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Oyster Point Hotel, was created.Tickets for the event will be $50 and organizers are hoping to get 350 to 400 people to attend. There will be a cash bar and food supplied by members of Red Bank Flavour, an alliance of Red Bank restaurants. Donations will be accepted at the event, said Robert Lowe, founder of Navesink Business Group.Ryan “has always donated her services to others and she has done a lot for Sea Bright Rising,” Lowe said. “We felt we needed to help her.”Though she is grateful for the help, Ryan said she was having a little trouble getting used to accepting an assist from others.“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I guess because I’m the one always trying to do everything for everybody, now I’m awkward because people are trying to do things for me and I don’t know how to react to it.”Ryan expects Boondocks to remain much the same for its upcoming fifth season as it was pre-storm except she hopes to be able to put more of an emphasis on her lunch business and maybe offer delivery to area offices and homes.Meanwhile, Ryan appear­ed Monday, Feb. 18, on WCBS TV. She made lobster mac and cheese during a 4 ½-minute segment on CBS 2 This Morning’s “2 In The Kitchen” featured at 6:45 a.m. and had a “really fun time.”last_img read more

Canucks Playoff Preview – Round One Vs. Kings

first_imgLeigh Ramsden lives in Vancouver and is an avid Canucks fan, having been a partial season ticket holder for over 10 years. He’s old enough to have witnessed all three Stanley Cup losses, as such, his prime goal is to remove those scars by seeing a Cup brought to Vancouver. Leigh is Fighting For Stanley’s (www.fightingforstanley.ca/vancouver) west coast correspondent, and will also blog after all Canuck games for The Nelson Daily. After the events of last Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks found out they drew the plucky Los Angeles Kings in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup tournament.  Vancouver won 8 of its last 9 games to finish first in the tight Western Conference. On the other hand, the Kings limped into the postseason, losing three of their last four in either overtime or a shootout, including two in a row to end the season against the San Jose Sharks.  Those losses relegated the Kings to eighth spot and their solidified their date with the Presidents’ Trophy winners.We know the Canucks have been a high-scoring, high-flying team in recent years, but took a bit of a right turn in 2012 and started to play much more sound defensive hockey, at the expense of some of their offense. The Kings, on the other hand, have played most of the year in a defensive shell, netminder Jonathan Quick recording an impressive 10 shutouts.  L.A. has had trouble scoring all year as well, and made a coaching change back in December when they fired Terry Murray and brought Calgary Flames destructor Daryl Sutter (and his horrible, 70’s-inspired suits) aboard.  The Kings continued on the same trajectory after Sutter was hired, however, after the trade-deadline acquisition of sniper Jeff Carter, the Kings have been scoring at higher rate.How do these teams stack up against each other? Let’s take a deeper look. SEASON RECORD AND SEASON SERIESThe Canucks secured the league-wide title with a record 51-22-9, while the Kings finished 16 points in arrears with a record of 40-27-15.  When looking into the quality of each team’s record, the Canucks record was 36-22 (.621 winning percentage) in regulation time, 7-2 (.778) in games decided in overtime, and 8-7 (.533) in the less relevant games decided in a shootout. On the other hand, the Kings were 31-27 (.534) in regulation, 3-6 in overtime (.333), and 6-9 (.400) in the shootout. If you ignore the games decided in the skills competition, the Canucks were 19 games above .500 at 43-24 (.642), while the Kings were much more pedestrian, finishing only one game above .500 at 34-33 (.507).  Give the Canucks the edge in this area.Part of the difference here will be the fact that the Kings play in much tougher division than do the Canucks – none of the other Northwest Division teams finished above the playoff bar, whereas the Pacific Division delivered not only the Kings, but also the Coyotes and Sharks. The Canucks beat up on their divisional foes finishing with a record of 18-5-1, whereas the Kings were a much more pedestrian 8-8-4 against their Pacific Division rivals. It was this difference that separated the two teams in the standings.  Consider this:  the Canucks record outside the Northwest and Pacific divisions was 22-12-4, and the Kings were 19-15-4.  From looking at the non-divisional records, it appears the two teams are relatively equal, but give the Canucks a slight edge due to their marginally better record.The Canucks won the season series 2-1-1, with one of the wins coming by way of a shootout.  Overall, the four games were played relatively evenly and the Kings looked the better team through large stretches of all of them. That said, the Canucks were good enough to win two games in regulation (each one a one-goal game) and lose another in shootout. The only game that they lost in regulation was 4-1 Kings, in a game where the Canucks didn’t put their best effort on the ice.  These games were a microcosm of each team’s season – the Kings played things close to the vest and couldn’t outscore their opponents while not allowing much, while on the other hand, the Canucks struggled to score, but did “just” enough to win, nothing more, and nothing less. Based on the team’s head to head record, you’d have to again give the edge to Vancouver. GOALTENDINGLos Angeles boasts one of the league’s best netminders in Quick, who is sure to receive a Vezina trophy nomination for his stellar body of work this year.  Quick is the biggest reason the Kings were able to scrape into the playoffs. Quick played in 69 games for the Kings, fourth in the NHL behind Pekka Rinne, Jonas Hiller, and Miikka Kiprusoff.  He finished second in the NHL with a 1.95 GAA, and was fifth in the NHL with a save percentage of .929.  His 10 shutouts led the NHL.  Clearly, Quick was L.A.’s most valuable player.The Canucks on the other hand boast not one, but two of the league’s best goaltenders.  Number one goalie Roberto Luongo played in 55 games, recording a GAA of 2.41 (15th in the league) and a save percentage of .919, good for 12th in the league. Backup Cory Schneider played 33 games, and had an excellent GAA of 1.96 with a save percentage of .937, third and second in the league respectively. This season wasn’t Luongo’s best statistically, but he has played a number of tremendous games for the Canucks this season.  Together, the two goalies combined for 8 shutouts this year.Quick is inexperienced, having only 12 career playoff games, compared to Luongo who has 59 career contests.  Of course, Luongo has run into problems in each of the Canucks’ last three playoff years, struggling at times against Chicago and in last year’s finals against Boston.  However, in Schneider, the Canucks have a legitimate go-to number 1(b), as he’s shown his ability to step in and play in big games, all season long. Quick’s had an incredible season, there’s no doubt, and although fatigue may be a factor given his workload this year, if he was pitted against only Luongo you’d have to give the Kings the edge. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the Canucks have a fail safe in Schneider, and for that reason give the nod to the Canucks between the pipes. DEFENSEThe Kings finished with 170 goals against, good for second in the NHL.  The Canucks were fourth at 191 goals allowed.The Kings’ defensive corps boasts one of the league’s best young defensemen, Drew Doughty.  He is typically paired with Cup-winning veteran, Rob Scuderi. The Kings’ other two pairings are typically ex-Canuck Willie Mitchell alongside young Russian Slava Voynov, and Matt Green playing with Rafael Diaz.  With the exception of Doughty, none of these blueliners are spectacular, however, together they form a very solid and efficient six-man unit.  Scuderi and Greene provide the most physicality.The Canucks look to start the series with the pairings of Bieksa-Edler, Hamhuis-Tanev, and Salo-Rome.  The defense has been playing very well of late and while none of these guys boast the kind of offensive flair of a Doughty, four of the six are legitimate threats offensively.  In addition, this group does a tremendous job of moving the puck out of the zone with efficiency, getting the puck to the forwards.Generally, I get nervous come playoff time when the Canucks have to face a Norris-calibre defenseman.  Doughty was nominated for the award in his breakout 2009-2010 campaign, but has failed to live up to the hype since then, reporting late to camp last fall after a contract dispute. In addition, in the games against the Canucks this season, they have been able to get Doughty off his game mentally, causing him to take a number of unnecessary penalties.The Canucks also boast much better depth.  I’m not sure who the Kings have in reserve, but trading Jack Johnson away at the deadline hurt their depth badly.  The Canucks have at least three NHL-calibre defensemen in reserve (Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts, Marc-Andre Gragnani), each of whom can slot into the sixth spot and give the team a much different look.For defense – give the edge to the Canucks, as their offensive abilities and depth should be enough to overcome Doughty’s top-end talent. FORWARDSThe Kings’ top-six is extremely good on paper, boasting Anze Koptiar, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Dustin Brown.  The team has been scoring well of late, averaging three goals per game over their last 18 games, which roughly coincides with the acquisition of Carter at the trade deadline. Kopitar can be one of the league’s most dynamic players, however, in my mind he continues to fail to take that “next step” to elite superstar status.  Justin Williams has had a bit of a down year, but he was the Kings’ best forward in their 4-1 victory over the Canucks back in December. Mike Richards has had a garish campaign (I should know as I have him in my fantasy league), and after returning from a concussion in late December, he hasn’t appeared to be the same player he was before.  Carter is returning from a recent bone bruise injury and may not be as effective as he normally would be.The Kings’ bottom-six begins to thin out, and includes players such as Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson (out after an emergency appendectomy), Kyle Clifford, Matt Lewis, ex-Blackhawk Colin Fraser, and a collection of 12th/13th forwards to round out the lineup.While the Kings’ top end talent can compare to Vancouver’s, their depth up front is suspect and coach Alain Vigneault should be able to exploit favourable matchups. Given his line’s great two-way performance, Sammy Pahlsson will likely see a lot of ice against Kopitar, and if his line can neutralize the Kings’ first unit (possibly chipping in with the odd goal), things should look good for the Canucks.  The addition of Pahlsson has been huge for this team, and has impacted it much more greatly than I expected when it was consummated at the deadline.  It’s the single biggest reason the Canucks have been able to clamp down effectively on their opposition. When the Pahlsson line takes these tough minutes, it will enable AV to get the Kesler line out against the Kings’ third or fourth lines and that should result in some goals for the team in blue and green.The big question mark for the Canucks remains over Daniel Sedin’s status.  If he is able to play it opens up a lot of possibilities for Vigneault as he can move Max Lapierre and Mason Raymond around the lineup as required. Although there was some drama around this situation today, expect the Canucks to have Sedin in the lineup as quickly as possible, currently looking like game 2 or 3 of the series assuming there are no setbacks.In another close competition, give the Canucks the edge here with two caveats:  the Kings have enough talent to put the puck in the net and if their forwards raise their game they can compete; and if Daniel Sedin doesn’t play in the series, the scale may tip to the Kings in this area. COACHING/INTANGIBLESAll Canucks fans have seen Sutter’s act before and we should all know what to expect.  Sutter will employ a physical, borderline dirty approach with his troops in order to try to get the Canucks off their game. The Kings have the horses to play this way, with Fraser, Clifford, Richardson (when healthy) and Greene all able to mix it up and agitate.  This approach is one that’s used consistently against Vancouver and it has had success in the past. For this reason, the Canucks’ power play will have to produce to discourage the Kings from taking too many liberties, and if it doesn’t, expect a dirty series with many scrums, yapping, and confrontations.The Canucks’ team toughness has been questioned throughout the year but I believe they’ve answered the bell when required.  They have some big, tough players at their disposal (Byron Bitz, Zack Kassian, Dale Weise, Alberts) and I believe at least one of these guys will be in the lineup at all times to keep the Kings honest. There are a number of other players on the team that won’t back down from anything as well, including Bieksa, Lapierre, and Ballard if he’s in the lineup.Vigneault is one of the league’s best coaches and his ability to tinker with his lineup to find combinations that are effective is constantly impressive.  He’s also handled the goaltending situation extremely well throughout the year and has set himself up to have both netminders at his disposal without the team missing a beat. Sutter is an old-school coach with limited understanding of the intricacies of the current-day game, but, his best success in the NHL was as coach of the Calgary Flames, leading them to an improbable Stanley Cup appearance, so he knows what it takes from that perspective.The Canucks are fresh off their Stanley Cup appearance last season and return virtually the same group, so one would think they hold a distinct advantage here.  Bear in mind that two of the Kings’ leaders, Richards and Carter, both went to the Cup final two seasons ago when they were with Philadelphia. Mostly because of Vigneault’s ability to adapt, give the edge again to the Canucks. SUMMARY AND PREDICTIONIn my opinion, the Canucks hold a slight edge in all the categories mentioned above.  That said, the difference between the two clubs is very small and Vancouver will not be able to roll over the Kings.  The Kings’ top-notch goaltending can win them a series on its own and given the fact they have been scoring more of late, they will present a formidable opponent.The key to the series may boil down to special teams.  I expect the Kings to employ the typical Canuck-killer strategy, which is after-whistle shenanigans, dirty hits, running the goaltender, and other marginal plays. I expect they will cross the line and the Canucks will be given their chances on the PP.  If it can convert, expect a similar series to last year’s Sharks series with the Canucks winning in 5.If the Canucks can’t convert on the PP, it will bolster the Kings’ approach and this is where it can get dicey for Vancouver.  They will have to control their emotions and stay out of the penalty box, and if they have to withdraw into lock-down mode, they will do so.Luckily, the Canucks have shown that they can employ this style of game effectively, perhaps the most relevant example being their 1-0 shutout of this Kings team 7 games before the end of the regular season on March 26.  If this route is taken, the series will stretch longer.At the end of the day, the Canucks are marginally better than the Kings all over the ice, and this will result in a number of close games, but games where they should be able to get over the top.Canucks in seven.last_img read more