May 14, 2013 by Sal Ientile of The Hockey Daily.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions will have their hands full with the hungry San Jose Sharks in the 2nd round. The two giants from California are riding high in confidence having both won four straight games to close out their first round foes.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are unpredictable, that’s part of the appeal. Last season the Los Angeles Kings came out of nowhere to win their first championship in franchise history. Before last season’s capturing of the Cup the Kings spent many years in and out of the playoffs, never really considered a real threat to win.
Meanwhile, the Sharks are the opposite of the Kings. They are the model franchise of consistency. San Jose have been a regular playoff team for almost a decade now and counting. On many occasions they have entered the playoffs as one of the favourites to win it all but never managed to pull it off. In fact, unlike their California rivals from Anaheim and Los Angeles, the Sharks have never played a game in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The San Jose Sharks began this playoffs the way the Kings did one year ago, with a first round series victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The last three Stanley Cup Champions have all defeated the Canucks at some point on the road to winning. This season, the Sharks are that team.
Both teams feature two members of the 2010 Canadian Gold Medal winning Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. The Kings stud defenceman Drew Doughty and C Mike Richards played on a team with San Jose Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
If you believe in regular season stats translating into playoff success you will be interested to know that the San Jose Sharks finished 7th in goals against to the Kings 9th. Why is this relevant? In the first round of the playoffs the team with the better regular season goals against won seven of eight series. Advantage Sharks. However, the only exception was the Kings who allowed more goals against throughout the regular season than their first round victims the St. Louis Blues.
Home ice advantage could play a significant role in this series. The LA Kings had the best home record this season at 19-4-1, while the Sharks 17-2-5 was the 3rd best record at home. Advantage Kings with one extra home game. In case you were wondering, the Chicago Blackhawks were the second best home team this year.
If the Los Angeles Kings win this series they will become only the 2nd team in the last ten years to reach the conference finals the year after winning the Stanley Cup. The 2009 Detroit Red Wings are the only other.
If the Sharks win this series they will reach the conference finals for the 3rd time in four years. They would be alone in that distinction.
Kings In 7.
Not that I think it will be one of those series where the home team wins every game, but I have the Kings in 7 because I think they are too good and too fierce to lose a Game 7 at home. The Kings are deep at every position. They are young, big, fast and built to win. They have the luxury of an extended off season thanks to the lockout – something previous champs have not enjoyed. The Sharks are very good but the Kings are great.