The NHL announced the 2014 Stanley Cup playoff schedule after the last of the games Sunday, April 13. The San Jose Sharks will host the first game of their series against the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings over a week after knowing that would be the way their postseasons would kick off.
NHL Network previewed the Eastern Conference Monday and tackles the Western Conference Tuesday. Examiner.com will be previewing this first-round series pitting two Stanley Cup contenders that are also bitter rivals against one another. (The Central Division's St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks are another great rivalry between contenders.)
The two have faced off twice in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team finishing higher in the Pacific Division standings won both series (the Sharks in six back in 2011 and the Kings in seven in 2013), but neither had enough left for more than one win in the Western Conference finals.
Home-ice advantage was the difference in last year's series, with the home team winning all seven games. San Jose is the best home team in the NHL since Todd McLellan took over behind the bench and has finished tied for first or second in each of the last two seasons. Finishing behind their rivals in the Pacific Division means Los Angeles has this extra hill to climb.
There is a little extra on this series. The Sharks were not happy with the play or lack of empathy displayed by the Kings following captain Dustin Brown's knee-on-knee hit that robbed Calder Trophy candidate Tomas Hertl of 45 games (and a chance to help the Czech Republic in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics).
Both teams are both deep and have elite talent on both ends of the ice. Both have Stanley Cup-winning goalies and recent playoff success: San Jose has 10 straight playoff appearances with more series wins than losses but lacks even a Western Conference title while Los Angeles won all 16 games needed in 2012 but has just 13 other playoff wins in the last 10 seasons.
The Sharks were 11 points better in the 2013-14 NHL season, and have the edge in season-long statistics. However, those statistics lose credibility when both teams dealt with injuries and got reinforcements before the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Kings are ranked lower in all offensive categories: 2.92 to 2.42 goals on 34.8 to 31.6 shots per game, 17.2 to 15.1 percent power play and 34 more giveaways. They have little overall edge on defense: 2.30 to 2.05 goals on 27.8 to 26.2 shots allowed per game, with a penalty kill comparison of 84.9 to 85.2 percent.
In most of the "real-time" stats (the link is sorted by giveaways, where the teams are third and fourth to make for an easy comparison of all their stats) they actually finished worse throughout the 2013-14 NHL season. They had 977 more hits but that is a ridiculously unreliable stat. Meanwhile, they had 297 fewer takeaways and 359 fewer blocked shots while winning the slimmest percentage fewer faceoffs.
This is a different season, but the home-ice advantage should carry San Jose in seven games. The units were examined to determine this by what can be expected out of them in the Stanley Cup playoffs...