New Faces Add Fire to Freeway Faceoff

The Ducks and Kings are two franchises that have enjoyed success in the new millennium with three Stanley Cup championships. In that regard, their rivalry has also reached new heights. Before the 2014 playoffs, Los Angeles and Anaheim had not met in the postseason. But the new divisional format of the playoffs ensured that the meeting would eventually happen if they were to both keep making the playoffs. The series ended with a game seven Kings victory and the fans have been at each others’ throats ever since. The summer of 2015 has seen both teams make big moves for new players. Here are the new faces that will join in the fun of the Freeway Faceoff next season.

Milan Lucic

Milan Lucic Bruins
(Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

This guy is ferocious on the ice. And that tenacity leads to other teams being thrown off their game by getting agitated and angry. The 27-year-old Vancouver native stands at 6’4 and 235 pounds adding to the Kings’ already overwhelming size. Speculation can be made about which line Lucic will get his role on, but it wouldn’t matter because he can play well with the Kings’ top centers Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. He brings playoff experience to an already very experienced playoff team. Lucic will most definitely push the Kings back into the playoffs with a strong regular season performance. His antics on the ice draw the ire of any opposing tough guy.

When the Ducks finally meet Lucic in January of 2015, almost half of the season will have already gone by. But he will be seeing his old playoff rival Ryan Kesler on the other side of the ice. Neither of these guys carry the reputation of being teddy bears on the ice so it’s a matchup that will bring some loud crunches into the boards and some big plays off the hits. Lucic will surely give the Kings an edge in the physical department over the much quicker Orange County squad.

Kevin Bieksa

Kevin Bieksa
(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

After years with the rival from the north, Kevin Bieksa joins the Anaheim Ducks to chase what all players after 30 years old want more than money. He joins his good friend and long-time teammate, Ryan Kesler, after one season apart. Being on a rival squad, Bieksa had a way of getting under the skin of the fans and the players. He is physical, annoying, and effective in his game plan. Francois Beauchemin’s departure led to questions about veteran leadership on the blue line. Bieksa was originally rumored to be traded from the Canucks to the San Jose Sharks and that deal fell apart at the last-minute.

Coming into the Ducks, Bieksa is no stranger to the new cross-town rival Los Angeles Kings. He’s certainly familiar with the Kings’ tough guy, Matt Greene.

With the speed and skill already present in the Anaheim defense, Bieksa will be expected to make the big hits night in and night out. Bieksa’s right-handed shot is also a welcome presence on a team with four returning blue-liners carrying a left-handed shot.

Carl Hagelin

Carl Hagelin
(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

In Hagelin’s case, no one is expecting him to play angry. The team expects him to carry over his impressive speed and skill from the New York Rangers. What Carl Hagelin adds to this rivalry is not ferocious hitting, agitation, or hatred. Hagelin carries past Stanley Cup pain, having lost to the Kings in the final in 2014. The Ducks want his drive and desire to show in his play. He specializes, as well, in the penalty kill and will be able to join Kesler, Cogliano, and Silfverberg on the forward unit. This also helps to save Ryan Getzlaf for more even strength and power play time.

Hagelin is the new player that the fans can’t wait to see skate on the ice for his first game. Bruce Boudreau has a quicker lineup than he has ever had since coming to Anaheim. What remains constant for these three players coming to their new teams is the same thing. On these teams, not winning the Stanley Cup is failure.