Tonight at 7pm the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings open their second round series at the Staples Center in L.A. This second round matchup features the two remaining teams from California after the Anaheim Ducks were upset by the seventh seed Detroit Red Wings.
While the San Jose was able to take advantage of Vancouver’s goaltending woes, the same cannot be said for the Kings. In fact, Los Angeles has 2012 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick who was probably the biggest reason the Kings won the cup last year. Getting the puck past him will be tough all series so San Jose will want to stick to the basics.
In other words, get the puck deep, get people in front of Quick and get as many shots on net as possible. The Sharks were very good at all three phases in their round one matchup at all of these, so if they can keep it rolling they will be in good shape.
Leading the way for San Jose will be all of their big guns who were very present in their first series. Both Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski had eight points while Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton each had five points against the Canucks. Marleau and Pavelski tied for the team lead with four goals while Thornton and Couture each had five assists.
That is the kind of production you expect from your top guys, something which is been lacking from the WHOLE group over the past few years, so after that great first round performance many people are already wondering if this is finally the year. While the outlook is promising, remember folks, they still have 12 games left to win.
The Los Angeles Kings will be facing a great goaltender in his own right in Antti Niemi whose numbers rivaled Quick’s through the first round. Niemi is probably the Sharks’ MVP for the season because without him San Jose is not even in the playoffs.
Jeff Carter leads the way for the Kings in terms of guys who will be trying to beat Niemi, a tough task to be sure. Carter led the team during the regular season and consequently in the first round with three goals. Teammate Mike Richards led Los Angeles in points and assists with five. Also, defenseman Slava Voynov led Los Angeles with a +5 rating and added two goals as well.
Much like the beginning of the Canucks series, the Sharks will no doubt have to weather an early storm from the Kings. Expect them to come out fast and physical. The key for the Sharks will be to take care of the puck and get it out of there zone as quickly and safely as possible to avoid any turnovers that could turn into a quick goal and a huge boost for Los Angeles.
Their fast start could hurt even more if San Jose comes out a little rusty after their long layoff. They have had six days off now and that whole idea of rest versus rust definitely comes into play, although rest may have payed off with Jason Demers possibly returning to the lineup in the next couple of games.