Apr 12, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy (6) moves the puck defended by Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) during overtime at Staples Center. The Anaheim Ducks won in a shootout with a final score of 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Anze Kopitar – 29 goals, 41 assists
Jeff Carter – 27 goals, 23 assists
Jonathan Quick – 27-17-4 in goal, 2.07 GAA
Final Regular Season Record: 46-28-8, Third place in NHL’s Pacific Division, 6th place in the Western Conference
First Round Opponent: San Jose Sharks – Game 1 on Thursday, April 17 in San Jose
By all accounts, these Kings had a solid season, a season worthy of their playoff berth.
They had their ups and downs, a notable down being that they only won one of their five games against their crosstown rival Ducks in the annual Freeway Face-off – but we’ll get to that later.
Quick had an outstanding year with his .915 save percentage and six shutouts, winning the NHL’s William M. Jennings Trophy for leading the league in fewest goals given up (100) in the process.
Kopitar and Carter, as well as defenseman Drew Doughty, were likewise big factors to the team’s success.
One thing is for certain, however…
If the Kings are going to win their second Stanley Cup in three years, it will definitely not be an easy road as even though they went 3-1-1 in the regular season against the San Jose Sharks, who they will face first in these playoffs,
Many pundits see this match-up as a toss-up and, according to the Los Angeles Times, a “hard-hitting, fierce series”.
The Times has the Kings, who are without the home-ice advantage at the Staples Center, beating the Sharks in seven games.
In an encouraging note, Darryl Sutter’s team didn’t have home ice during the entire 2012 postseason, and they ended up winning it all – as an eighth seed, no less!
Kings fans, I’m sure, are eagerly anticipating how things will unfold.
Ryan Getzlaf – 31 goals, 56 assists
Corey Perry – 43 goals, 39 assists
Jonas Hiller – 29-13-7 in goal, 2.48 GAA
Final Regular Season Record: 54-20-8, 116 points, First place in NHL’s Pacific Division, 1st place in the Western Conference
First Round Opponent: Dallas Stars, Game 1 on Wednesday, April 16 at Honda Center
Meanwhile, about 30 miles south on I-5…
Everyone acknowledges that these Ducks have had a season for the ages, setting franchise records for wins, points and goals scored on the way to earning home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
And on top of that, 26 of their 50 victories were of the comeback kind, which certainly gave Duck fans a thrill.
There IS, however, one caveat; a potential roadblock to the victory parade down Disneyland’s Main Street that fans in Orange County so envision:
The fact that these Dallas Stars beat Bruce Boudreau’s team two of the three games that they played against each other, which in and of itself is NOT an indicator of what will happen between these two teams over the next week, but is something that the Ducks have to overcome.
As well as the fact that despite a division title and a #2 seed last year, they were sent home by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round in a frustrating fashion, losing games 6 and 7.
The word “Underachieving” was the main description to these Ducks in 2013, and they are determined to make up for that misfortune this time around.
If nothing else, a Stanley Cup – which would be the second in their history and first since 2007 – would be the ultimate send-off for the all-time Ducks leader in games played, goals and points, Teemu Selanne, who is retiring at the end of this postseason.
Apr 12, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Stephane Robidas (19) and Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli (73) battle for the puck during the third period at Staples Center. The Anaheim Ducks won in a shootout with a final score of 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
The most potentially exciting thing about this NHL postseason as far as the two teams that call the greater Los Angeles area home is this:
IF THE KINGS AND DUCKS WIN THEIR FIRST ROUND SERIES, THEY WILL MEET IN THE SECOND ROUND.
Which will not only be the Ultimate Freeway Face-Off but will, in the minds of fans, settle once and for all who runs the hockey scene in Southern California.
I think that even folks who don’t follow hockey will be extremely interested, as it would be the first time that two L.A. teams in any sport would face each other in the postseason.
But first, these Kings and Ducks need to get past the Sharks and Stars, respectively.
If they do get past their first round foes and commence with their showdown, I strongly suggest that they make a video urging their fans to maintain peace and civility, telling them “What happens on the ice, stays on the ice.”
But let’s cross that bridge if/when we get to it.