I have stopped my hyperventilation and calmed myself down. The San Jose Sharks will be playing the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For me, this match up is two things. First, it is worrying. The Kings lead the season series 3-1-1. Secondly, it’s exhilarating. A replay of last year’s Western Conference semifinal and another playoff match up between bitter rivals. If you can’t get excited for that then you need to go home, buy a playboy and figure it out.
So what will the series look like? Well, since the Sharks are the higher seed they get home ice advantage. To a casual observer that may seem like almost nothing, considering LA is just a few hundred miles from San Jose and also in the same time zone. However, there is nothing casual about the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is a big advantage for a few reasons. The biggest one being that the King’s record at the SAP center is four and thirteen since the 2010-2011 season (including the playoffs). That’s right, in seventeen games at the Shark Tank the Kings have only won four times. Advantage San Jose.
How the Players Stack Up
It’s absolutely no secret that the King’s have one of the best goalies in the league right now. Jonathan Quick is a baller, if you disagree then you are wrong. The guy is top ten in goals allowed. As for the Shark’s goalie situation it’s still a little up in the air. If you have been reading previous articles then you’re aware that the Sharks got into a bit of a goalie controversy. You can read about that HERE. For those who don’t know Antti Niemi ended up keeping his job with stellar play. That is until just last week when he was subbed out while playing the Anaheim Ducks. Alex Stalock finished out the game and started the next one against the Colorado Avalanche. However, Niemi got the start against the Phoenix Coyotes to close out the season. So it appears that coach Todd McLellan is the only person who has a clue about who will start in the playoffs.
The story of the Shark’s playoff campaign will revolve around how their centers play. I wont make an outrageous claim that the center is by far the most important player on the ice and that the play of everyone else dose not really matter. I will say that three of the Shark’s best players are centers and two have a tendency to swim into the abyss come playoff time *cough Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau cough cough*. Meanwhile the third, Joe Pavelski, has put up an incredible team leading 40 goal season and has 79 points. Of course playing well in the playoffs is easier said than done. Especially when you have the second longest playoff streak in the league at ten years and no cup to show for it. If I am honest, I know absolutely nothing about the Kings centers except that Anze Kopitar is leading the Kings in goals, assists and points. What I can assume is that they are all horrible decision makers because they decided to play for LA.
This series will be in no way an offensive series. Instead, you can expect to see hard hits and two of the stingiest defenses in the league. I’m serious when I say that the puck will drop on Thursday night and we will be lucky if we see a goal by Monday morning. Both teams rank in the top ten in goals against by allowing less than two and a half goals per game.
As an extreme optimist I think the Sharks take the series in at most six games. However, I won’t be shocked to see this one go to game seven.