Scenic Route: Vancouver to L.A.

By HOWARD BERGER

LOS ANGELES (Apr. 15) – Hockey, west-coast style, recommences tonight here in SoCal when the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings resume their Western Conference quarterfinal with Game 3 at the Staples Center. Needless to say, it is Vancouver’s most important hour since the deciding match of the Stanley Cup final last June and the Canucks are looking for a better result than occurred on that riotous night in British Columbia.

In recent years, a predominance of road teams have fared exceptionally well in the early rounds of the Cup tournament, and the pattern appears to be repeating.

After today’s 3-2 Nashville triumph at Detroit, visiting clubs are 11-5 in the 2012 playoffs – Los Angeles and Philadelphia having swept the opening matches of their series on the road. Exactly why the six-month-long battle for home-ice “advantage” becomes a disadvantage is anyone’s guess – though you could feel the crushing burden of expectation on the Canucks up in Vancouver. It seems rather clear that players relax and perform more effectively when removed from the home environment; we’ll see if it continues later today in Games 3 of the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh; New Jersey-Florida and Vancouver-Los Angeles series.

Keep in mind the Canucks were a splendid 24-12-5 on the road in the regular season – second-best to the Flyers. The clubs split their two meetings here in L.A. – Canucks winning 3-2 on Nov. 10; Kings prevailing 4-1 on New Year’s Eve.

Meantime, the trip down here from Vancouver yesterday provided some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve witnessed in more than two decades of travelling around the National Hockey League. Please enjoy these photo-images:

THE ENORMOUS CRATER OF MOUNT ST. HELENS – IN THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS OF WASHINGTON STATE, 96 MILES SOUTH OF SEATTLE AND 50 MILES NORTHEAST OF PORTLAND, OREGON – IS EVIDENT (ABOVE) OUT THE RIGHT-SIDE OF AN AIR CANADA FLIGHT FROM VANCOUVER TO LOS ANGELES ON SATURDAY. THE STRATO-VOLCANO IS FAMOUS FOR A CATASTROPHIC ERUPTION ON MAY 18, 1980 (BELOW) IN WHICH THE ENTIRE NORTH FACE OF THE MOUNTAIN CAVED IN. A VOLCANIC PLUME OF GAS AND MOLTEN-LAVA ROSE 80,000 FEET INTO THE AIR AND DEPOSITED ASH ON 11 U.S. STATES.

TWO MORE VIEWS (ABOVE) YESTERDAY OF MOUNT ST. HELENS.

WE DEPARTED VANCOUVER TO THE WEST (ABOVE) – OVER THE WATER – A RARITY IN MY EXPERIENCE. JUST MORE THAN 30 MINUTES INTO THE FLIGHT, WE PASSED BY THE CITY OF TACOMA, WASH. (BELOW), 30 MILES SOUTH OF SEATTLE. THE TACOMA DOME – WHICH HAS HOSTED FOUR NHL PRE-SEASON GAMES – CAN BE SEEN AT FAR-LEFT IN PHOTO.

GORGEOUS VIEW OF THE OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS (ABOVE) – ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF WASHINGTON STATE AND RISING DIRECTLY FROM THE PACIFIC OCEAN.

(TOP IMAGES, ABOVE): MOUNT JEFFERSON, PART OF THE CASCADE RANGE AND THE SECOND-HIGHEST MOUNTAIN IN OREGON, RISES 10,497 FEET INTO THE AIR. (BOTTOM IMAGES): A SKI RESORT (LEFT) AND OTHER MOUNTAINS IN OREGON.

TWO HOURS INTO THE FLIGHT, WE PASS OVER SANTA MONICA, CALIF. (ABOVE) WITH BEACHES AND RUNWAYS OF LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN VIEW. WE THEN SEE THE ENTIRETY OF L-A-X (BELOW).

A COUPLE OF MILES EAST OF LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – IN SUBURBAN INGLEWOOD – SITS THE FORUM AND ADJACENT HOLLYWOOD PARK RACE TRACK (ABOVE). BUILT BY CANADIAN BUSINESS MOGUL JACK KENT COOKE, THE FORUM OPENED IN DECEMBER 1967 AND WAS HOME TO THE KINGS UNTIL THE END OF THE 1998-99 NHL SEASON.

BEFORE TURNING BACK TOWARD L-A-X, WE FLEW PAST THE GIANT LOS ANGELES COLISEUM (ABOVE AND BELOW) AND ADJACENT L.A. SPORTS ARENA ON THE CAMPUS OF UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC). THE 94,000-SEAT COLISEUM WAS MAIN VENUE OF THE 1932 AND 1984 SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES AND WAS PREVIOUSLY HOME TO THE LOS ANGELES (NOW ST. LOUIS) RAMS AND LOS ANGELES (NOW OAKLAND) RAIDERS OF THE NFL. THE KINGS PLAYED ABOUT A DOZEN HOME GAMES AT THE SPORTS ARENA IN THEIR INAUGURAL SEASON BEFORE MOVING INTO THE FORUM ON DEC. 30, 1967. IT WAS ALSO HOME OF THE NBA’s LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS UNTIL THE STAPLES CENTER OPENED IN THE FALL OF 1999.

AN OMINOUS SIGN FOR THE KINGS (ABOVE)? WITH SUN SHINING ON ALL SIDES, A CLOUD-COVER DARKENS ONLY THE AREA OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES, HOME OF STAPLES CENTER.

      

THE FREEWAY GRID HERE IN L.A. IS ONE OF THE MOST EXTENSIVE ON THE PLANET. THE HARBOR FREEWAY (ABOVE-LEFT) RUNS BETWEEN THE PORT OF LOS ANGELES IN SAN PEDRO AND THE MAIN DOWNTOWN CORE OF THE CITY. INTERSTATE-405 [THE SAN DIEGO FREEWAY, ABOVE-RIGHT] IS THE MAIN THOROUGHFARE BETWEEN THE SAN FRERNANDO VALLEY TO THE NORTH; RUNNING PAST L-A-X, AND SOUTH TOWARD LONG BEACH AND SAN DIEGO.

ON THE GROUND AT L-A-X. A DELTA AIRLINES BOEING-777 TAXIS TO RUNWAY (ABOVE) WHILE ANOTHER JET CLIMBS OUT OVER THE PACIFIC OCEAN. (BOTTOM): A SINGAPORE AIRLINES AIRBUS-380, WITH DOUBLE-DECK SEATING, AND THE AIRPORT’S FAMOUS THEME BUILDING.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES JET (ABOVE) SECONDS BEFORE LANDING AT L-A-X.

LIVING PROOF THAT YOU’RE IN LOS ANGELES (ABOVE) AND DESCENDING (BELOW) INTO THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY ALONG INTERSTATE-405.

CRYSTAL-CLEAR SATURDAY EVENING HERE IN SO-CAL (ABOVE AND BELOW).

COLOR AND FOLIAGE IS HARDLY EVER OUT OF BLOOM HERE IN L.A.

Email: howardLberger@gmail.com

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