The Anaheim Ducks were the best team in the Pacific Division this past season. Their opponent in the second-round, the Los Angeles Kings, won the Stanley Cup two years ago. Ducks vs Kings: Who’s the favourite?
It’s hard to bet against the Los Angeles Kings right now. They just stormed back from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the other California team, in Game 7.
The last time a team pulled off such a remarkable series comeback (2010 Flyers) it went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Kings must be riding high in confidence, and confidence is conducive to winning in the playoffs.
The Ducks have posted back-to-back division titles while competing directly with the Kings in the regular season. However, Anaheim’s recent postseason track record doesn’t compare to L.A.’s.
The Red Wings upset the Ducks in seven last year, in the first-round. And the Ducks were the higher seed — second in the conference — so in losing to Detroit they left much to be desired.
Anaheim beat the Dallas Stars in six in the first-round of the current playoffs, but Dallas isn’t much of a team compared to the Kings, or last year’s Red Wings. Not yet, anyway.
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Ducks are two of the game’s most elite talents, but after them, there is a drop-off. Not that Anaheim isn’t deep up-front, they have some good players in supporting roles. But the Ducks don’t have proven commodities in the lineup like the Kings do. We know what to expect from L. A. — a Stanley Cup contender with incredible defensive habits, experience and a vicious forecheck. The Ducks are more of a mystery, at this point.
Anaheim could greatly improve its status as a Cup contender by handling the Kings in the second-round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. Until that happens, the Kings are the team to beat in this one.
Criticism of Anaheim comes loudest from the hockey analytics community. They insist the Ducks aren’t as good as their regular season record claims. Their FF% was fifteenth best in the regular season. Conversely, the Kings led the league in the category. Which means, according to the advanced hockey metric known as Fenwick, the Los Angeles Kings were the NHL’s best possession team, five-on-five, because their ratio of shots taken to shots allowed was the highest in the NHL over the course of 82 games.
What that actually means: the Kings take a lot more shots than they allow against, during five-on-five play. Therefore, they generate more offensive opportunities than their opponents. That should lead to more goals. And scoring more goals than the other guys is how a team wins hockey games.
The Kings were also the league’s top defensive team, allowing the least amount of goals against in the regular season. Defence wins. That’s a theme in The Hockey Daily’s playoff predictions, and I’m sticking to it.
Sal’s prediction: Kings in 7.
There will be hitting, great goaltending, penalties and more. But when the dust settles at the end of the seventh game, I predict the Los Angeles Kings will have won another series and be off to a Conference Final rematch with the Chicago Blackhawks.