The Los Angeles Kings joined the NHL in the 1967-68 season. A hockey team that has been around for over half a century is bound to have some intense rivalries, and the Kings are no exception to this. Although they don’t have any rivalries on the scale of the Boston Bruins versus Montreal Canadiens, they do have a few noteworthy foes.
The LA vs Chicago rivalry started in the early 2010s. The cause of the rivalry is that both teams were juggernauts in the Western Conference. From 2010 until 2015, the only teams that won the Stanley Cup were: LA (2012 & 2014), Chicago (2010, 2013 & 2015), and Boston (2011). Due to the Kings and Blackhawks being very successful in the same period of time, they often had to compete en route to the Stanley Cup.
The Kings and Blackhawks matched up against each other twice in the playoffs during the 2010s. The first time they met up was in the 2013 Western Conference Final. Chicago decisively won this series in five games and went on to defeat Boston to win the Stanley Cup.
Despite being short, it was a close series. Only two out of the five games were won by more than one goal, with both LA & Chicago winning a single game by two goals. The final game of the series was decided in double overtime off of a Patrick Kane goal. The teams combined for 74 penalty minutes (PIM) in the series, which is equal to nearly 15 minutes per game. This was a tightly contested series, and both teams played physical games.
The 2013 defeat left the Kings with a sour taste, and they didn’t have to wait long to get revenge. Chicago and LA faced each other in the 2014 Western Conference Final. This was a high scoring series, as only game one (which Chicago won 3-1) witnessed less than seven goals.
Los Angeles took a three to one series lead and looked to be cruising their way to the Stanley Cup Final, however, Chicago won Game 5 in double overtime then managed to force a Game 7. The Kings never held a lead in Game 7, but they managed to come back from being down three times to force overtime. At 05:57 of overtime, Alex Martinez scored to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final.
The 2014 Western Conference Final were later named “series of the decade”. LA and Chicago’s rivalry is founded on both teams competing to win the Stanley Cup at the same time.
Anaheim and LA have surprisingly only met once in the playoffs. Their lone playoff series was a memorable, seven-game battle in the second round of the 2014 playoffs. Each of the first six games was won by only one or two goals. However, the Kings won Game 7 in a 6-2 blowout. The way these teams played in this series, showcased how this rivalry often plays out.
The Kings and Ducks have historically both been defensive-oriented teams, which leads to most of their games being close scoring, as they were in the 2014 playoff series. In the series, the teams combined for 122 PIM, which is equal to 17.4 penalties per game. This highlights the physicality that both teams typically play against each other, which has become a trademark of the rivalry. The only thing missing from this series was a fight, as these rivals often have fights when they play.
This rivalry is mainly due to LA and Anaheim’s proximity. Both cities are located in southern California (SoCal). They are the only NHL teams from SoCal and due to this, they share the same television market. Both teams fanbases dislike each other, and they will boo players from the opposing teams off of the ice at most games. The teams’ arenas are only 38 minutes apart and are connected by the SR 91 of the California Freeway, hence the rivalry being dubbed “The Freeway Face-Off”.
The rivalry between LA and Anaheim boils down to both city’s proximity, and due to both teams playing physical, hard hitting styles, that have led to many close-scoring, heavy-hitting contests over the years.
San Jose Sharks
Another in-state rival of the Kings is San Jose. Unlike the Ducks, San Jose is in northern California (NorCal).
Sports franchises from SoCal and NorCal are known for having rivalries. In the MLB, the LA Dodgers (SoCal) and San Francisco Giants (NorCal) are rivals. The Oakland Athletics (NorCal) and LA Angeles (SoCal) are also rivals. In the NFL, the LA Rams and the San Francisco 49ers are rivals. The NHL’s resident SoCal versus NorCal rivalry is between the Sharks and Kings.
The Kings and Sharks have played in the same division since San Jose entered the league in 1991. Prior to 2011, the teams had never met up in the playoffs.
In 2011, the teams met up in the playoffs for the first time, where San Jose defeated LA in six games during the Western Conference Quarterfinals. This was a good result for the young Kings, who had only made the playoffs once in the previous seven seasons, as they took the team with the third-best odds of winning the Stanley Cup to the limit.
In 2013, LA met up with San Jose in the Western Conference Semifinals. LA took the series in seven games and got revenge for 2011. This was a tightly contested series, as five of the seven games were decided by a single goal. The teams had a physical series, which witnessed 110 PIM, and a game misconduct. This series mainly came down to a battle of netminders. Jonathan Quick posted a .951 save percentage (SV%) for LA, while Antti Niemi posted a .924 SV% for the Sharks.
The teams met up again in the 2014 playoffs, and this series was one of the darkest moments in Sharks franchise history. Conversely, it was one of the best moments in LA’s history. San Jose took a commanding, three-to-zero series lead, and outscored LA, 17-8 in the first three games. The Kings stormed back with a 6-3 win in Game 4. This was followed up with a 3-0 shutout and a 4-1 victory in Game 6. In Game 7, the Kings did the unthinkable, they completed the reverse sweep and later went onto win the Stanley Cup.
San Jose missed the playoffs in 2015, however, the Kings and Sharks matched up against each other in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. The Sharks won the first two games, while LA took game three by a score of 2-1 in overtime. Following Game 3, Drew Doughty said:
“You know they’re thinking a little bit about it now, so we’re right where we want to be”
This comment fuelled the Sharks, who went onto beat the Kings in Games 4 & 5 to win the series.
This rivalry always existed due to these teams being in the same State and the NorCal vs SoCal rivalry. However, it heated up between 2011-2016, where the teams met in four playoff series and were top teams in the Western Conference. In fact, one of either LA or San Jose made it to at least the Western Conference Finals in five out of the seven seasons between 2010-2016.
What it Means
LA has developed a number of rivalries, many that have recently become more heated. LA and San Jose have always had a rivalry because they’re both based in California, but it was intensified when they met up in four playoff series in the 2010s. Chicago and LA’s rivalry started because both teams were juggernauts of the Western Conference at the same time, and they met up in two series where the winning team went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Anaheim and LA have only met once in the playoffs, but the “Freeway Face-Off” rivalry is as intense as the others because of the many violent regular-season games.
LA has created a number of rivalries, and two of their biggest rivalries were intensified due to repeatedly matching up in the playoffs. LA should be a playoff team in a few years, which could lead to even more rivalries in future years.