Let's take a moment to cherish that we made the correct pick way back at the beginning of the season — the Sharks and Kings are facing off in yet another playoff series. Don't look at the other picks, because they mostly suck. All three teams had the opportunity to seize the division in the last month of the season, but it's Anaheim who stormed back from dire straits to grab the Pacific crown.
Their reward is a first round matchup against the Nashville Predators. For us? It means another date with the Kings. The history is the history — this is the fourth time in six years the Sharks and Kings have met up in the playoffs and Los Angeles has gotten the better of San Jose in two of the three. Two straight, for those keeping score at home. Beyond the results we know what a series against the Kings means — it'll be a slog and it'll be painful.
No one accuses the Kings of playing electrifying hockey, but there's also no denying how damn good this team still is. Los Angeles is the best possession team in the NHL, boasts a perfectly competent goaltender and has pretty okay special teams this year. There's a lot to fear when it comes to the Kings, but the Sharks have played well against their rival this season and absolutely have a shot to take them down in this series.
The road to the Sharks first Stanley Cup was going to go through the Kings, whether it be in the first or second round. There's no denying the inevitability of it. So, a very difficult road to the Stanley Cup lies ahead of a team that has played right about to expectations this season. I'd be surprised if many analysts pick the Sharks to win a round this playoff season, let alone do any more damage than that, and maybe that's a blessing in disguise.
If the Sharks win this series they're going to need good goaltending from Martin Jones and James Reimer, Joe Thornton will have to continue to carry the squad and we'll have to make sure the Kings don't find a way to murder Marc-Edouard Vlasic again. Let's call those the three keys to the series.
Starting on the road shouldn't be a problem for the Sharks, really, we've seen how they've played this season. They've also played well against the Kings, winning three of five games and at least treading water in terms of possession. San Jose has been on the receiving end of plenty of this-should-happen-but-didn't series; maybe now, in a series where they really shouldn't beat their arch rival, is the time they deliver an upset blow.
Go Sharks — and Beat L.A.