Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
Earlier this week we profiled some of the players that were going to have an impact on this series, and today we are going to focus on what we think is the most important matchup between these two teams. Obviously there are several different areas that could be turning points in either direction, but this is the one that we think is most important.
Sharks PP vs. Kings PK
Special teams are always an important area when it comes time for playoff hockey, and this series is no exception to that rule. The Sharks power play has been a huge component to their success, ranking second in the league with a 23.5% success rate. Two San Jose players had more than 30 points on the man-advantage, with Joe Thornton (9 goals, 24 assists) and Dany Heatley (11 goals, 19 assists) causing most of the damage. Several other players like Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski also had big production value.
As for the Kings, their big strength this season was their penalty killing unit. Ranked 4th in the league at a 85.5% kill rate, the Kings did a tremendous job of preventing teams from capitalizing on their many mistakes. Los Angeles was around the middle of the pack in terms of penalty minutes per game, picking up 11.73 minutes per game in penalties. Obviously this penchant for committing penalties won’t do a team any good in the playoffs, but at the very least the Kings can erase their mistakes.
The key to this battle is going to be the play of Jonathan Quick in net for Los Angeles. The old adage is that a team’s most important penalty killer is their goaltender, and this is especially true for the Kings. If Quick is able to stand on his head and keep the Sharks from taking advantage of penalties, that is going to be a huge boost for this Kings squad.
Other News and Notes:
-In the author’s playoff preview posted today on THW, the Sharks were not only picked to win this series, but also to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup. You can read the full text of that article here.
Finally, here are a couple of articles about each of the teams:
-Interesting post in the San Jose-Mercury News about the tough guys on the Sharks roster, and how that added grit may aid them in the postseason. [Mercury News]