Every year it’s “Is this the year?” in San Jose. Then they fizzle out. Simply put, the Sharks are known to choke on their playoff meals.
On the flip-side, when the Kings are the dark horse in a playoff series, they play their best hockey. The strikingly similar 2012 championship team can attest to that.
Trash talk aside, there are key players, as well as general keys to success, for both teams. These are the factors that may determine the outcome of the series. I asked Kings experts Mike Regalado and Eric Roberts for their opinions on the matter.
For San Jose it will be Brent Burns. He’s 6’5″ and always seems to be a thorn in the Kings side. He turns it on in the playoffs which will make him the most dangerous shark in my opinion. – Mike Regalado @TheBigdisco
The versatile Burns can play both forward and defense. His 48 points in 69 regular season games this season should make him a huge threat against the Kings, yet as Mike points out, it’s Burns’s size that makes the difference. His physical stature allows him to compete hard against the equally large and physical Kings. If Brent shows up this series he could prove to be a real King killer.
Antti Niemi is make or brake for the Sharks. A lot of pieces are there for the Sharks, but Niemi will be the player that either wins or loses the series for the Sharks. – Eric Roberts @EricRinkRoyalty
Looking at the Quick v. Niemi match-up, I think most objective fans would give the edge to the Kings Jonathan Quick. However, as Eric points out, If Niemi can match, or out-d0, the performance of Quick, then the Sharks have a very good chance of taking the series. To put things in perspective, both goaltenders have recent Stanley Cups under their belts, and either could out-duel the other.
I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that Martinez is LA’s X-factor. His emergence as an offensive force from the blue-line could give the Kings that extra edge that powers them to a series win over the Sharks. Martinez has 15 points in his last 21 games, and is expected to carry that pace into the playoffs.
Keys To Success
The key to success for San Jose is getting past the defense. If LA’s defense falters and Quick is the only King doing anything, eventually the Sharks could dominate the LA goalie. – Mike Regalado @TheBigDisco
Quick has a Jennings Trophy this year for least goals allowed, and Sutter runs one of the most sound defensive systems in the entire NHL. The Sharks will need to find flaws in the Kings defense so that they can use their high-powered offense to win the series.
As for LA, they need to dig into their board play. It helped in the Stanley Cup run and should be very effective for them in these playoffs. – Mike Regalado @TheBigDisco
Defense is the name of the Kings game. If Los Angeles can force the Shark’s skaters to the perimeter and dominate board play, this could be an easy series for the 2012 cup champions.