The Beach Boys sang “I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day, I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.”. I’m sure they weren’t singing of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs arriving in the entertainment capital of the world. But as fate may have it the Kings have once again shown the hockey world not to underestimate the power of the King. L.A will welcome their California brethren; the San Jose Sharks in round two of the playoffs for an unlikely matchup.
Both teams arrive as a relative underdog, but that is seemingly a role both teams embrace. The Sharks have been favorites for a long cup run for the last five years but have come up short of their ultimate goal every year. This season looks different after the first round as San Jose disposed of a Vancouver team that a lot of people felt was in turmoil before the playoffs started because of a goalie carousel between Roberto Luongo and Corey Schneider.
Meanwhile for the Kings, the pressure of a being a Stanley Cup favorite appeared to carry too much of a burden early on in 2011, but as the year progressed the Kings snuck into the playoffs and then tore a path to the Cup finals on route to the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup.
This year a Cup hangover was all but assumed for L.A but they managed again to push into the playoffs by way of the five seed. They beat a strong St. Louis team at their own game with a big, physical bruising style that was a staple in their cup run last season.
The Sharks hope that the grind of the Kings round one series will be exactly what the doctor ordered for a San Jose team that escaped a soft but high paced series in just four games against the Canucks.
The Sharks have had a long lay off (finishing their series against Vancouver on May 7) which is always a subject of endless debate in the NHL playoffs. Some teams prefer the rest, giving ailing bodies time to recover and rejuvenate for the next round, while others like to ride the wave of uncle ‘Mo’ into the next round. This series will be a test of those two theories as the Kings finished off their series Friday and must turn around to face the Sharks on Tuesday. The lack of action over the past week for the Sharks will certainly put their veteran presence to the test making sure the intensity from round one is reverberated in game one against L.A.
The Sharks must continue to play a fast paced up-tempo game against the Kings if they have any hope of returning to the Western conference final for the first time since 2010. They must not get sucked into the physical pound-for-pound slugfest with the defending cup champs. Fans in St. Louis are all too familiar with how that will end.
Fans of the Sharks will favor this matchup over the seemingly unstoppable force of the Chicago Blackhawks but certainly don’t love it. The Sharks will have to use their speed and take advantage of the power play opportunities the Kings just as San Jose did in round one against Vancouver. I like the King’s in seven to stay warm and keep winter a little bit longer inside the Staples Center, until the immovable object (Kings) meets the unstoppable force (Blackhawks) in round three.