Anaheim Ducks (P1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (P3)
|1||Saturday, May 3||Kings at Ducks||8pm et/5pm pt|
|2||Monday, May 5||Kings at Ducks||10pm et/7pm pt|
|3||Thursday, May 8||Ducks at Kings||10pm et/7pm pt|
|4||Saturday, May 10||Ducks at Kings||TBA|
|5*||Monday, May 12||Kings at Ducks||TBA|
|6*||Wednesday, May 14||Ducks at Kings||TBA|
|7*||Friday, May 16||Kings at Ducks||TBA|
Hockey in California has been amazing the last few years, so it’s a privilege to see another intrastate series; the proverbial California Cup, if you will.
This is the first time Anaheim and Los Angeles will meet in the playoffs, and both are coming off comebacks to cap off their respective first-round series. The Ducks came back from a two-goal deficit with 2:30 remaining in Game 6 to put the Dallas Stars away in overtime, while the Kings became the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to stun the third team in the California triumvirate, the San Jose Sharks.
Now, a spot in the Western Conference final is up for grabs, not to mention California and Pacific Division supremacy, and this should be yet another incredible series, which the Ducks website has dubbed The Battle for SoCal.
The season series saw Anaheim take four out of five games over Los Angeles, but they certainly weren’t easy games as four games were decided by one goal, with two (including the Kings’ lone win) coming by way of the shootout, though shootouts obviously aren’t part of the playoffs.
As you might expect, former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry and current Hart nominee Ryan Getzlaf have led the way up front for the Ducks, posting seven points each in the first round. However, Anaheim has also gotten timely scoring from some of its younger players.
Nick Bonino is tied for the team lead with three goals, with two of the three coming late in Game 6 against Dallas, including the overtime winner. Meanwhile, Devante Smith-Pelly also scored twice in Game 6, including the game-tying goal with less than a minute remaining in the third period.
Anaheim’s depth presents a credible threat, but if the Ducks hope to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006-07, the team must have reason to be confident in its goaltending.
Frederik Andersen struggled late in the first round, getting pulled in Game 4 and Game 6 in favour of Jonas Hiller, who earned the series-clinching win. It presents an interesting conundrum for Bruce Boudreau, as he initially went to Andersen because Hiller faltered down the stretch in the regular season.
On the other side, the Kings are surely riding high following their historic comeback, but the biggest question for them will be to see how much they have left in the tank, as they’re one of two teams to win at least one playoff series in each of the last three seasons, the New York Rangers being the other.
Anze Kopitar has a point in every game in the playoffs, but he really turned it up in Games 6 and 7, scoring five points (3 G, 2 A) in those games, while linemate Justin Williams woke up midway through the series, posting all six of his points in Games 4 through 7, all Los Angeles victories. The same can be said of trade deadline acquisition Marian Gaborik, who was held to just one point through the first three games before adding four more.
The Kings have also received plenty of contributions from the back end, as defencemen Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin each had five or more points in the opening round. Youth has also served the Kings well, as Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have both been productive when they’ve played, often as linemates.
In goal, it was a tale of two series for Jonathan Quick. Through the first three games, he allowed 16 goals on 108 shots with a 5.78 goals-against average, but he rebounded to post a .963 save percentage (130 saves on 135 shots) the rest of the way with a 1.25 goals-against average, reminiscent of his Conn Smythe numbers from 2011-12.
Prediction: Ducks in seven
This will be yet another tightly-contested series, but the Ducks may have just a bit too much firepower for the Kings to handle, not to mention the Kings could come down from the historic comeback pretty quickly.
However, momentum can also work the other way, and if Quick can maintain his numbers from the second half of the San Jose series, he may well steal the Kings’ third straight Western Conference final appearance.
This should be a hell of a series, folks.