2011 NHL Playoffs: San Jose Sharks set to play the Los Angeles Kings in the first round

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 24: Goaltender Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings defends his net as Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks is upended in the crease area during the NHL game at Staples Center on March 24, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Sharks 4-3 in shootout overtime. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

For the first time in franchise history the San Jose Sharks will play the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL playoffs.

A few assorted thoughts on the series:

  • In terms of injuries, the loss of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams puts a definite strain on a Kings team that has struggled with scoring goals all season long. Both players were the 1-2 punch amongst Los Angeles' forward group, and their departure from the team is going to be a difficult one to handle. However, Williams has made some strides recently and is skating with the team-- his return in the first round is a possibility, and could provide a welcome boost for Los Angeles.
  • Dustin Penner, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, and Dustin Brown will comprise the majority of the Kings scoring amongst their forward group. It's not a rag tag unit by any means, but matched up against San Jose, it's clear that the Sharks have the edge in non-injured forward depth.
  • Expect the Kings to play a very conservative game that stresses patience and defensive responsibility. They have one of the best defensive units in the entire NHL and an excellent goaltending tandem. The gameplan going in will be to avoid a run and gun matchup with the Sharks, control the neutral zone, and keep the play to the outside along the boards.
  • Good and strong defensive teams have given the Sharks issues in the past, most notably against the Anaheim Ducks during the 2009 playoffs. And while the likes of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer won't be patrolling the blueline this series, players such as Willie Mitchell, Drew Doughty, and Rob Scuderi are all excellent defensive defenseman in their own right.
  • The Sharks ability to roll three lines right now helps in that regard however. Expect the Helicopter line of Joe Pavelski, Kyle Wellwood, and Torrey Mitchell to see the most fortuitus opportunities at even strength throughout the series. Considering their excellent play during the last month of the season, they should be up to the challenge.
  • Many will say that the injury to Anze Kopitar buries the Kings chances at making a deep run, and I'd have to agree with that notion. However, as we've seen in years past, a strong defensive gameplan can allow a team to steal a series. With the Kings defensive core intact and their goaltending strong, this has the potential to be a nailbiter of a series with 2-1 games a regularity.
  • We'll have a slew of in-depth breakdowns on forwards, defenseman, goaltenders, and special teams throughout the next three days, so stay tuned.
  • Schedule released at 7:00 PM tonight.

God Save Us All.

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