A quick look at how the Sharks and Kings match up against one another, headed into their first round Stanley Cup playoff series beginning on Thursday at Staples Center.
Some familiar faces led the respective offenses this season.
San Jose: The Sharks' fourth-ranked offense (2.89 goals-per game) was paced by Joe Thornton (82 points, tied for fourth in the league in scoring), and Joe Pavelski (38 goals, fifth in the NHL). The Sharks missed second line center Logan Couture for most of the first half due to a pair of injuries, but posted a 32-15-5 record with him in the lineup. Brent Burns added a whopping 27 goals and 75 points from the blue line, putting him second in the NHL among scoring by a defenseman.
Los Angeles: For the ninth straight season Anze Kopitar led the Kings in points with 74, while Tyler Toffoli topped Los Angeles with 31 goals (and a league-leading plus-35 rating). Second line center Jeff Carter had another strong campaign with 62 points, and newcomer Milan Lucic potted 20 goals. The Kings placed 14th in the NHL in scoring.
A pair of Norris Trophy candidates on each team’s blue line will be in the spotlight.
San Jose: Burns’ offensive skills have always been there, but the Wookiee transformed his defensive game over the second half of the key San Jose’s surge. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, still the club’s best defensive defenseman while posting 39 points in 67 games, didn’t play the final 12 games with a sprained knee but is expected to be fine for Game 1. Newcomers Paul Martin and Roman Polak have fit in well, while Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo help round out the Sharks’ deepest blue line in several seasons.
Los Angeles: Drew Doughty, probably considered the Norris Trophy favorite at this point, posted 51 points in 81 games while skating 28:01 per game (third in the NHL). Jake Muzzin, often his partner, added 40 points. The Kings aren’t nearly as deep or talented on the blue line as they were during their two Stanley Cup seasons, but still managed to finish third in the NHL in goals-against per game.
The established, championship veteran goes up against his former protégé.
San Jose: Martin Jones hasn’t officially been named as the Sharks’ starter, but it would be a shock if the 26-year-old former Kings backup wasn’t between the pipes on Thursday. In his first season as a number one, Jones posted a solid 37-23-4 record with a 2.27 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. His backup, James Reimer, provides outstanding depth. In eight starts after a February trade, the former Maple Leaf was 6-2-0 with a 1.62 GAA and .938 SP. If Jones falters or gets hurt, Reimer could step in with no drop off.
Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick’s 40 wins were a new career high (40-23-5), while the two-time Stanley Cup winner had a solid 2.22 GAA and .918 SP. Of course, Quick has a tendency to raise his game in the postseason, as the Sharks have witnessed first-hand. Backing up Quick is Jhonas Enroth, who posted decent numbers this season but has never been more than an average-at-best NHL goaltender in his seven seasons in the league.
Both cubs enjoyed more success on the power play then the penalty kill.
San Jose: The Sharks finished with the league’s third-best power play (22.5 percent), getting 12 goals from Pavelski and 11 from Patrick Marleau. San Jose scored at least one power play goal in six of its final seven games (7-for-26). Although the Sharks’ penalty killers finished just 21st in the league (80.5 percent), they did kill off 17-of-19 opponent power plays over their last six games. Both goals-against were in the same game.
Los Angeles: Doughty and Toffoli each had nine power play goals each to lead the Kings, who had the league’s eight-ranked unit (80.0 percent). The Kings’ penalty kill was slightly better than San Jose’s at 81.4 percent (15th in the NHL).
The Sharks are the healthier team headed into the series.
San Jose: Just like Vlasic, Matt Nieto expects to be ready for Game 1. He suffered a hand injury on March 17. It’s difficult to determine where or if he fits in the lineup, though, after he missed the final 12 games. Depth defenseman Matt Tennyson hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on Feb. 22 in St. Louis, and is still not ready.
Los Angeles: Kings forward Marian Gaborik has not played since getting hurt on Feb. 12, and his status is unclear for the first round. Defenseman Alec Martinez missed the final week of the regular season with an undisclosed injury, and is also questionable for Game 1. Defenseman Matt Greene (shoulder) and forward Jordan Nolan (herniated disc) remain out.