The second round of the playoffs has begun. The final eight teams have established themselves as the NHL’s elite. For the first time since their inception, the Anaheim Ducks will face off against their southern California rivals – the LA Kings. These teams have similar structure and will be a good test for one another. Though there may be a goal shortage in this match-up that rivals the goal totals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Kings had a very slow start to the playoffs. Losing their first three straight to the San Jose Sharks in convincing fashion. The Kings had been pushed to the brink and looked all but eliminated. They managed to rally based on the stellar play of their franchise goalie Jonathan Quick and some clutch, veteran leadership from Justin Williams. In fact, on a team deep with talent and defensive prowess Williams often gets overlooked. Yet in his career, he has played in five Game 7’s. In those five, his teams are 5-0 with Williams recording 9 points. With two Stanley Cups in his career (Carolina in 2006, LA in 2012) it goes without saying that Williams is the Kings X-factor.
Anaheim looked sharp in the early going of round one taking the first two. However a trend quickly developed with the Stars taking the next two on home ice, and then Anaheim regaining series control with another home ice victory in Game 5. It wasn’t until Game 6 with Anaheim trailing by two that they managed to come back and win the game, with that being the first game won by the road team in the series – it was the difference, clinching the series for Anaheim. They say you haven’t lost anything in the playoffs until you’ve lost on home ice – both Dallas and Colorado proved that towards the end of their respective seasons.
There are a lot of correlations between the two rosters. Perry and Getzlaf lead the way for Anaheim, rivalling Kopitar and Carter for the Kings. Anaheim has Cogliano and Bonino playing a more offensive style, but similar in production to that of Los Angeles’ Williams and Brown. Both teams have a solid supporting cast rolling all four lines.
The Kings defence is anchored by young guns (Stanley Cup Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist) Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin. They also have some veteran presence in Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Robyn Regehr. Their biggest asset in their own zone is evidently Jonathan Quick in goal. This is where I feel the Kings have the Ducks beat, on the back end.
There are question marks in goal for Anaheim, whether it be Hiller or Andersen remains unclear. With Andersen now getting the hook a couple of times, I think Hiller deserves a shot. Hiller is also a UFA at seasons end so this playoff could be pivotal in what happens to him this off-season. The Ducks’ defence are led by Francois Beauchemin, Bryan Allen, Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. Stephane Robidas was a deadline pick-up for their blue line, one expected to push the Anaheim defence to the next level. Unfortunately for both parties he suffered a broken leg, and will not see action again this year.
With all that said, this is what I gather. The Ducks are a more offensive team with far more offensive upside. However the Kings have been engineered for a certain style of hockey, playoff hockey. They’re going to play a gritty, defensive, some might even say a “boring” game throughout this series – and even the remainder of the playoffs. Although the Ducks have the edge up front, I really feel that Los Angeles is deeper both on the blue line and in goal. With the Kings winning their last four (all elimination games) they’re on fire. I don’t see Anaheim winning this one, but I do think they’ll make it interesting. I’d like to see this series go the distance – I think it will be LA in 7.
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