It seems only fitting that the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks would find themselves matched up against each other in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, after exciting early round series in 2010-11 (won in six games by San Jose) and 2012-13 (won in seven games by Los Angeles). In fact, despite the Kings finishing 3-1-1 against the Sharks during the regular season, four of those games were decided by one goal, with one going to overtime and one going to a shootout. In their 2010-11 playoff series, three out of six games were decided in overtime. In their 2012-13 playoff series, five out of seven games were decided by only one goal. In other words, chances are that this series will go to six or seven games, and almost every game should be close, from start-to-finish.
Taking a more in-depth look at the series, both teams appear to be very evenly matched:
San Jose – Antti Niemi (39-17-7 record / 2.39 goals against average / .913 save percentage)
Los Angeles – Jonathan Quick (27-17-4 record / 2.07 goals against average / .915 save percentage)
Joe Pavelski (41 goals / 38 assists / 8.8 offensive point shares)
Joe Thornton (11 goals / 65 assists / 5.3 offensive point shares)
Patrick Marleau (33 goals / 37 assists / 6.7 offensive point shares)
Logan Couture (23 goals / 30 assists / 5.0 offensive point shares)
Anze Kopitar (29 goals / 41 assists / 6.4 offensive point shares)
Jeff Carter (27 goals / 23 assists / 4.9 offensive point shares)
Justin Williams (19 goals / 24 assists / 3.1 offensive point shares)
Marian Gaborik* (5 goals / 11 assists / 1.4 offensive point shares)
*=statistics for 19 games played as a member of the Los Angeles Kings after being traded on March 5, 2014
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (plus-31 plus/minus rating / 6.1 defensive point shares)
Jason Demers (plus-14 plus/minus rating / 4.2 defensive point shares)
Justin Braun (plus-19 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
Drew Doughty (plus-17 plus/minus rating / 6.6 defensive point shares)
Slava Voynov (plus-6 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
Willie Mitchell (plus-14 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
San Jose – 17.2% power play conversion rate / 84.9% penalty kill percentage
Los Angeles – 15.1% power play conversion rate / 83.1% penalty kill percentage
During the regular season, the Kings led the NHL in Corsi for percentage at 55.7% (shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots for divided by shots on goal + missed shots + blocked for plus shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots against). The Sharks were third at 54.5%.
During the regular season, the Sharks led the NHL in Fenwick for percentage at 55.5% (shots on goal + missed shots for divided by shots on goal + missed shots for plus shots on goal + missed shots against). The Kings were second at 54.9%.
These statistics, courtesy of ExtraSkater.com, show that the Kings and the Sharks are adept at maintaining possession of the puck and routinely out-shooting their opponents. With both teams excelling in this area, one of the keys to this series will be puck possession advantage.
The Kings had four players with at least 200 hits during the regular season: Dustin Brown (246), Robyn Regehr (211), and Jarret Stoll (202). The Sharks had only one: Tommy Wingels (218). The Kings had four other players with at least 165 hits. The player with the next highest amount of hits on the Sharks had only 145. Neither team had even one player with at least 100 penalty minutes. As it was during last season’s playoff series, rugged play will be a key to the series, and the Kings will have to exploit this advantage if they want to win. If the Sharks can neutralize the Kings’ advantage in this area, they will almost certainly win the series.
The home team has won 16 out of the past 17 games in this series, including last season’s playoffs, with the lone exception being the Kings’ 1-0 victory in San Jose on January 27, 2014. The Sharks, having the higher seed, will have home-ice advantage in this series. One of the keys to the series, therefore, will be whether the Kings can steal a victory from the Sharks in San Jose.
Kings in six games.
Game 1: April 17 @ San Jose; 7:30 pm PST (NBCSN, CBC, FS-W)
Game 2: April 20 @ San Jose, 7 pm PST (NBCSN, CBC, FS-W)
Game 3: April 22 @ Los Angeles, 7 pm PST (NBCSN, CBC, PRIME)
Game 4: April 24 @ Los Angeles, 7:30 pm PST (NBCSN, CBC, FS-W)
*Game 5: April 26 @ San Jose, time TBD (NBCSN, CBC, FS-W)
*Game 6: April 28 @ Los Angeles, time TBD (CBC, PRIME)
*Game 7: April 30 @ San Jose, time TBD (CBC, PRIME)