(5) Los Angeles Kings vs (6) San Jose Sharks
The Los Angeles Kings might be the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they aren’t used to being the on-paper favorites. In fact, this is the first time since 1992 that the Kings will actually get to play Game 1 at home.
That’s a big advantage for the Kings, given that they were 19-4-1 at home during the regular season and the Sharks were 8-14-2 on the road. Los Angeles is also undefeated at home in the playoffs, although the Sharks had to beat Vancouver twice on the road during their four-game sweep.
Both teams have two great scoring lines and superb goaltenders that are proven winners in the playoffs. One X-factor in this series is Dustin Brown, who had just a goal and an assist in the first round, but scored three goals and four points in three contests against the Sharks during the regular season.
It will also be interesting to see if the Sharks can pick up where they left off after getting a full week off. That might be an undesirable amount of time for a hot team to rest, but after the condensed regular season schedule, it might actually prove to be a big advantage. You can also count on the Sharks to play with a lot of desperation, given that some of their top players are exiting their prime and they still haven’t won a Stanley Cup, and that should help mitigate any potential rust.
It should be a close series and any edge could be the difference. I suspect this series will go to seven games and at that point, I think the Kings should edge the Sharks with the backing of the Staples Centers’ crowd.
Justin Williams-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Tyler Toffoli
Robyn Regehr-Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi-Alec Martinez
Jacob Muzzin-Slava Voynov
Jonathan Quick posted a 1.58 GAA and .944 save percentage in six games against the St. Louis Blues. Mike Richards had a team-leading five assists in the first round.
Dustin Brown has just a goal and an assist in six matches. By comparison, he tied for the team lead in the Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup-winning run with eight goals and 20 points in 20 games.
Kyle Clifford missed Game 6 due to an undisclosed injury and his status for Game 1 of the second round remains unclear. Matt Greene (undisclosed) missed the entire first round, but might return in the near future. Willie Mitchell (knee) isn't expected to be available for the playoffs.
Prior to the Kings, the previous two Stanley Cup winners (Chicago and Boston) both lost in the first round of the playoffs as defending champions. So if nothing else, the Kings have bested both teams in that regard.
The Kings were the third worst team on the draw in the first round with a 47.1% success rate.
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Raffi Torres
T.J. Galiardi-Joe Thornton-Brent Burns
Tommy Wingels-Joe Pavelski-Andrew Desjardins
James Sheppard-Adam Burish-Tim Kennedy
Matt Irwin-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun
Brad Stuart-Scott Hannan
Basically the entire team, but the ones that stick out the most are Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. They both had eight points in the Sharks' four-game sweep. Couture found the back of the net three times during the series while Pavelski tied for the team-high with four goals.
Only four skaters participated in all four games and were held off the scoresheet in the first round. Of them, T.J. Galiardi was the most prolific scorer in the first round with five goals and 14 points in 36 games. So I guess he's the closest they have to a guy on a cold streak.
Martin Havlat suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 1 and remains day-to-day at this time. Jason Demers (lower body) is also day-to-day after missing the first round, but the news isn't as good for Adam Burish (upper body). Burish was hurt in Game 4 and isn't expected to be available for the second round.
San Jose was the only team to sweep its first round opponent.
They have only faced the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs on one other occasion. In 2011 the Kings were the Sharks first-round opponents and San Jose won that series in six games.