Odds To Win Stanley Cup: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks Series Preview
The San Jose Sharks finally learned how to win playoff series last Stanley Cup playoffs, knocking off the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings to get to the conference finals. However, a sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks has left a bitter taste that they will try to eradicate this season. Last season, the Los Angeles Kings made the postseason for the first time in seven years but were quickly expunged from the playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks. The Kings will aim to win their first playoff series in a decade when they take on the Sharks.
#7 Los Angeles Kings
How They Got Here: Los Angeles got off to a hot start to the season, but playing in the tough Pacific Division left it in the middle of the playoff pack for much of the season. The Kings clinched their spot in the postseason on Wednesday night with a win against Phoenix, and could’ve clinched the No. 4 seed with a win in either of their last two games. However, they fell to their division rivals, the Anaheim Ducks both times.
Player to Watch: The loss of Anze Kopitar two weeks ago is devastating to the Kings. Kopitar was their leading scorer and main offensive threat, but tore ligaments in his ankle and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Without him, the Kings will rely on captain RW Dustin Brown. Brown tallied 28 goals and 29 assists this season and was tied for second on the team in points with RW Justin Williams. Brown will need to try Kopitar’s big shoes if the Kings hope to upset the Sharks.
Goalie Outlook: Due to the great seasons by Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick has fallen under the radar despite putting together great numbers this season. Quick posted an impressive 35-22-3 record to go along with a 2.24 GAA and a .918 save percentage this season. Quick will need to look sharp to knock off the powerful Sharks.
Key to Victory: Quick. Quick. Quick. The Kings had one of the most anemic offenses in the league even with Kopitar (25th in the NHL at 2.5 goals per game). Without him, Quick will need to literally stand on his head and will the Kings to victory. He helped LA to allow just 2.4 goals per game (6th in the NHL) but may need even better numbers to get past San Jose.
#2 San Jose Sharks
How They Got Here: Dominating in the regular season is nothing new for the Sharks and they rather handily wrapped up their fourth straight division title and fifth consecutive playoff berth thanks in large part to dominating their division foes. San Jose put up a 14-5-5 mark in division en route to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The question Sharks fans are asking though is if this will be the year they finally play for the Stanley Cup.
Player to Watch: Veteran Joe Thornton didn’t put together the numbers he has garnered in past seasons, but he is the undisputed leader of the Sharks and one of the best setup men in the game today. Thornton notched his 11th straight 20-goal season and although his total of 70 points during the 2010-11 NHL season were his lowest since 2001-02, Jumbo Joe can still get the job done. His 49 assists were tops on the team and if San Jose hopes to finally break the curse, Thornton will need to play a big part.
Goalie Outlook: Although he led the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup last season as a rookie, Antti Niemi was not re-signed by the champions and the Sharks hurriedly snapped him up in free agency. Niemi has not disappointed this season for the San Jose, putting together a 35-18-6 record with a 2.37 GAA and a .920 save percentage. Niemi’s efforts led to him signing a four-year extension with the Sharks a month ago as San Jose hopes his dazzling 16-6 postseason record can finally get it over the hump.
Key to Victory: San Jose has the sixth best offense in the NHL, averaging a shade over three goals per game and will need its offense to keep up its efforts against Quick and the Kings. With stars like Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski the Sharks have loads of firepower but these stars need to show up in the playoffs to get them to the Cup.
2010-11 Regular Season Meetings
April 4th – San Jose 6 – Los Angeles 1
March 24th – Los Angeles 4 – San Jose 3
January 26th – Los Angeles 3 – San Jose 2
January 1st – Los Angeles 0 – San Jose 1
December 27th – San Jose 0 – Los Angeles 4
November 15th – San Jose 6 – Los Angeles 3
Season Series Notes: San Jose and Los Angeles split the season series 3-3, and home teams went 4-2 over the six games. Two of Los Angeles’ wins against San Jose came in shootouts and the division rivals are very familiar with each other.
The Final Word: Without Kopitar, the Kings just don’t have much of a chance. San Jose is notorious for choking in the postseason, but it would take a monumental effort for Los Angeles to get by the Sharks without their best player. This one should be ugly.
Stanley Cup Free Picks: San Jose in 5
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