Previewing the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012-13 season:
West Semi Final, Game 1 vs. San Jose; May 14/13, 7pm PST (10pm EST)
They’ve been rivals since the Sharks joined the NHL in 1991 but only in the past few seasons has this love-hate relationship intensified. Tonight, it picks up another level as the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks meet in arguably their biggest playoff matchup to date.
While they met two springs ago, the series matchup was an opening-round matchup and in addition, a lot has changed since 2011.
Since then, the Sharks have parted ways with the likes of Devin Setoguchi, Dany Heatley, Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe while welcoming Brent Burns and Martin Havlat into the fold. Youngsters like Tommy Wingels have since entered the picture while Logan Couture has since being a household name at HP Pavilion.
The Kings, though, have also gone through some changes. In 2011, Terry Murray was behind the bench while now it’s Darryl Sutter who once coached the Sharks to six seasons where they gradually improved points-wise in each of those years. The Kings have also added significant pieces to their club including Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while Jonathan Quick has since become better (not that he wasn’t before) and there is the matter that since 2011, Los Angeles has accomplished what the Sharks have so desperately tried to covet lo the last decade: the Stanley Cup.
As far as both the Kings and Sharks are concerned, the past is irrelevant. Tonight begins a new chapter in the rivalry between NoCal and SoCal.
Of their four meetings this season, three of those were decided by one goal with one of the Kings two losses coming in the shootout so it’s safe to say that the Kings and their fans are happy not having to deal with that in the playoffs.
Justin Williams, who has had a knack for elevating his game in the postseason, has found his name on the scoresheet each time he faced San Jose this season. In the four meetings, the 31-year-old has scored two goals and added four assists.
In goal, it’s been similar. While Jonathan Quick was pulled en route to his team’s first loss to the Sharks this season, the Conn Smythe winner has been much better since that game in mid-March. Antti Niemi, however, seems to save his best for the silver-and-black and will need to be solved enough times should the Kings hope to advance to the round of four.
In terms of series predictions, experts are going both ways in determining which team will come out victorious but enough of the prediction. Tonight is when we see what the Sharks and Kings have in store for each other as they take this hostile rivalry to a new level.
The action starts at Staples Center tonight at 7pm PST (10pm EST). Are you ready?
Enjoy the game!