Joe Thornton, Willie Mitchell

PREVIEW: NHL West Playoffs: # 5 Los Angeles Kings vs # 6 San Jose Sharks

TV SCHEDULE

Game 1: San Jose @ Los Angeles – Tuesday, May 14 at 10 p.m. ET on TSN, NBCSN
Game 2: San Jose @ Los Angeles – Thursday, May 16 at 10 p.m. ET on TSN, NBCSN
Game 3: Los Angeles @ San Jose – Saturday, May 18 at 9 p.m. ET on TSN, NBCSN
Game 4: Los Angeles @ San Jose – Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET on TSN, NBCSN
*Game 5: San Jose @ Los Angeles – Thursday, May 23 at 10:30 p.m. ET on TSN, NBCSN
*Game 6: Los Angeles @ San Jose – Sunday, May 26 at TBD on TSN
*Game 7: San Jose @ Los Angeles – Tuesday, May 28 at TBD on TSN

RECORDS

Records: Los Angeles 27-16-5; San Jose 25-16-7

Season Series: Tied, 2 games a piece

Playoff History: San Jose leads 1-0

Last Playoff Meeting: 2010-11 San Jose won 4 games to 2

Top Scorers: Anze Kopitar, Kings (10-32-42); Joe Thornton, Sharks (7-33-40)

Playoff Leaders: Mike RichardsKings (0-5-5) Joe Pavelski, Sharks (4-4-8)/Logan Couture, Sharks (3-5-8)

PREVIEW

SEASON SERIES STATS HERE

Thanks to a series sweep in round one over the Vancouver Canucks the Sharks haven’t played since May 7. Sometimes too much rest can be dangerous, sometime a team loses its edge that they had in their first series. However, if you’re going to have a long playoff run, teams normally need at least one, or two) short series along the way to rest up those battered bodies. The Sharks have been here before, and that should help them start quickly in the series.

Like the Sharks, the Kings are on a four game winning streak. Taking out the Blues in six games. The Kings eliminated the Blues on Saturday 6 in what was an incredibly physical series, as both teams combined for 479 hits. So the question has to be asked, how much of a physical toll did that series take on the Kings? They did however, avoid a seventh game, which was huge. There is absolutely no question which club has the fresher legs to start this series.

In goal its a battle of the titans. The Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was superb in round one stopping 167 of 177 shots versus the Blues for a .944 save percentage, and he was the difference because St. Louis had better scoring chances throughout the series. On the year, Quick was 18-13-4 with a 2.45 gaa and a .902 save percentage. Meanwhile San Jose’s Antti Niemi, who is nominated for this years Vezina Trophy, stopped 118 of 126 shots versus Vancouver for a .937 save percentage. On the season, Niemi was 24-12-6 with a 2.16 gaa and a .924 save percentage. Needless to say, but both goalies are dialed in and ready to be the difference for each respective team.

The Los Angeles Kings have home-ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time since 1992, having opened their past 16 series on the road. Another crazy statistic for these Kings, in beating the Blues last round, the Kings became the first team to win five consecutive playoff series when opening on the road.

But in the end, it’s never a bad thing to have home-ice advantage. However, it will been interesting to observe the this Kings team because it feeds off stealing a game or two to start the series on the road and then riding that momentum as the series shifts to L.A. Last spring, they won both opening games on the road in all four series en route to the Cup. This year, they lost Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis before coming back and winning four straight.

The Kings have won 10 straight games at home, counting the regular season, so they’re definitely cooking at Staples Center right now. However, if you have ever watched a game there, the momentum changes quickly, and it can turn into anyone’s game very swiftly. But no team was as good as San Jose at home this year who went 17-2-5 at home this year, including winning both against Vancouver in the first round.

Up front the the Sharks are led by the likes of Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. Which presents the Sharks having more detail in their offensive game than that of the Blues. What worked really well for the Sharks in the opening round was their balanced offense, with Couture, Thornton and Pavelski centering different lines. That’s three lines that can score, and it’s tough to defend against. While Scott Gomez heads up the fourth line, and the second power play unit. Burns has responded to moving up from the D ranks and the move has transformed the Sharks’ offense. In fact, Burns led the Sharks in points versus the Kings this year with 8. (2 goals and 6 assists) In Round one, Vancouver focused on Thornton and his line with T.J. Galiardi and Burns as the top unit to match up with in terms of the Canucks’ top defense pairing, etc. In the end, it was Couture’s line, with Marleau and Raffi Torres, that was actually the one the Canucks should have gone after, matchup-wise. Meanwhile, Martin Havlat is still on the shelf with a groin injury, thanks to Kevin Bieska.

The Kings with Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards as their one-two punch at center will match up with Couture and Thornton. But who faces off against Pavelski and Gomez could be the determining factor in the series. Then, the next question is, who does Kings defenseman Drew Doughty get? Couture or Thornton? Is he capable of playing forty minutes?

Listen, the division matchup makes this series even more intriguing. Every game has been close this season. The Sharks won a back to back last season, right before the playoffs began. I think the team split their home meetings until the very end and then, the Sharks depth at center makes the difference, and that’s why I have the Sharks in 7.

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