The Los Angeles Kings are in the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks had a great seven game series last year. This is the Kings third post season matchup with the Sharks in the last four years. The Kings lost the series to the Sharks in six games in 2011. The Kings beat the Sharks in seven games in 2013.
The Sharks are 8-2 in their last 10 opening round series. A bright spot for the Sharks has been a return to the lineup for electrifying rookie winger Tomas Hertl. The Kings were able to limit Hertl to just one point (an assist) in three games between the two clubs earlier this season.
The talented San Jose Sharks have never gotten past the Western Conference Finals. The Kings have a rough road ahead of them. L.A., as stated by Goalie Jonathan Quick “We have a lot of guys that just hate to lose. I think sometimes you have two great teams and one team loves to win and one team hates to lose and I feel like the team that hates to lose will end up winning more times than not.” The Los Angeles Kings are a team built for the playoffs.
A team can make deep run in the postseason on the back of a hot goalie. The impact goalies have had on postseason success has been self-evident.
In the past three years, the Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas (2011) and the Kings Jonathan Quick have won the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Chicago Blackhawks received incredible goaltending from Corey Crawford, who finished the playoffs with a .932 save percentage.
The Kings have the advantage in the matchup of goalies. Jonathan Quick is the hot goalie in this series and one who could steal a playoff series. Antti Niemi’s career has featured plenty of ups and downs. Niemi performed well behind a tremendous Blackhawks team in 2010 then struggled mightily the next postseason for the Sharks posting a .896 save percentage. Niemi bounced back in 2013 by posting a .930 save percentage. Niemi has also been less than stellar in the regular season. The real question is, “which Niemi will show up?”
Jonathan Quick could easily be classified as the one goalie you do NOT want to face in the playoffs. When you look at the Team USA Olympic net minder’s resume his postseason excellence stands out. Since 2012, Quick has posted save percentages of .946 and .934 to go with goals-against averages of 1.41 and 1.86. Among 2014 postseason NHL goalies Jonathan Quick has the fourth most career playoff games and a .929 career playoff save percentage.
Quick stopped 195 of 205 shots in last years seven game thriller against the Sharks with a .951 save percentage. Defenseman Drew Doughty will be back in the lineup. Between these two teams home ice has been huge. In the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals with the Sharks, where the home team won every game of the series, the Kings had home-ice advantage. Between the two clubs this season the home team is 4-1-0; the Kings beat the Sharks at SAP Center on January 27th one of the NHL’s most hostile buildings. There were some moments during the regular season that the Kings under achieved, by their standards, struggling to score goals. The savvy trade with the Columbus Bluejackets to acquire Marian Gaborik as an offensive spark plug has paid off.
The Kings are big, tough and deep. L.A. has a great two-way center, a stud on the blue line and a proven goalie that performs when the heat is on. L.A. is excellent five-on-five and has allowed the fewest goals in the league during the regular season. Combined with an elite possession team and top-flight defense, the Kings will be tough to score against.
Prediction: Los Angeles Kings in 7 games.