Sharks & Ducks: A Race to Avoid Los Angeles

Kings Did the Unimaginable

Alec Martinez Kings
Alec Martinez could benefit from the fact that Slava Voynov won’t be on the ice for the Kings for the foreseeable future. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Make no mistake about it, the second Stanley Cup run by the Los Angeles Kings last season was far more impressive than their first. With the new divisional playoff format, the Kings had to go through the juggernaut of the Western Conference. They had to face the best three teams in their own conference (aside from themselves) in the Sharks, Ducks, and Blackhawks. Each series went the distance, and while they only took five games to beat the New York Rangers in the final, that was a tough fight to end that series.

Conversely, despite being an eighth seed in 2012, the Kings’ first cup run wasn’t nearly as daunting. The Canucks were an overrated top seed. Many Sharks fans at the end of the season were hoping to face the Canucks instead of the Blues. While the Kings were impressive in beating St. Louis in round two, the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils weren’t exactly the cream of the crop opponents in the last two rounds. Certainly not the same as beating the Blackhawks and King Henrik.

The current divisional playoff seeding, along with the three-headed monster in California, has brought a renewed emphasis on finishing first in the Pacific. Sure enough, Kings fans may not see it that way considering they won the Stanley Cup as a three seed but you can be sure both Sharks and Ducks fans want no part of finishing second and having to face the Kings in the first round. Even with the Slava Voynov mess that has left the Kings with a big hole in their defense, Los Angeles is still a formidable squad. With the way the standings are starting to evolve, it looks like what we all predicted would happen, will happen. The Ducks, Sharks, and Kings will finish in the top three spots in the division. Arizona and Edmonton are clearly out of the race already, the upstart Calgary Flames are falling fast, just 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, and the Vancouver Canucks look ready to free fall as well. Earlier in the year Vancouver was flirting with first place with Anaheim but are just 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, and have a worse home record than all three Californian teams. Currently they are actually one point up on fourth place LA with two games in hand, but it’s hard to imagine a team predicted to be lousy to finish ahead of the defending champions.

Los Angeles hasn’t been much better than Vancouver in their last 10 with a 4-4-2 mark but the Kings just recently finished a long road trip. They have won two of three since coming home including a nice come from behind victory over the Blues. Jonathan Quick’s .921 save percentage is far and away better than Ryan Miller’s .906. The Kings should cement themselves in third place over the Canucks in the next few weeks.

Sharks and Ducks Fight For Division

(Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

However, without Voynov and having played so many games the last few years, the Kings will have a tough time catching the Sharks and Ducks. San Jose and Anaheim are both on fire right now. The Ducks are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and the Sharks are 8-1-1 in theirs. Currently Anaheim holds an eight point lead over the second place Sharks who have one game in hand. A San Jose regulation victory over Anaheim on New Years Eve and a win in their game in hand would make it just a four point lead. The race to avoid LA ought to go on throughout the season and will be fun to watch. Neither team wants to have to do what LA did and go through the other two Californian teams and the Blackhawks to get to the final. What are the chances that happens two years in a row? Not likely. Even honest Kings fans have to agree that the chances their team can do that again, particularly without Voynov, are extremely low.

Thus far this season the Ducks have only lost six games in regulation against teams not named the Sharks. If San Jose is to overtake Anaheim for first place, they will need some help from the rest of the league. The Sharks only get to fight the Ducks head-to-head and fist-to-head, two more times this season. Needless to say, they would be wise to win both those games in regulation. The second place finisher in the Pacific will have a tough, tough road to the Stanley Cup. Of course players rarely admit to wanting to avoid a certain team in the first round, as it is never wise to verbally imply that another opponent is easier or inferior but the Sharks and Ducks understand the deal. Finishing first, getting home ice, and avoiding the defending Champions is extremely beneficial.

17 thoughts on “Sharks & Ducks: A Race to Avoid Los Angeles”

  1. So fun to listen to Sharks and Ducks fans act like Kings fans are a bunch of know-nothings that didn’t exist prior to 2012. I’ve been a fan long enough to remember the Bay Area’s first team coming into the league with the Kings as an original expansion team only to move to Cleveland because they were drawing 6,000 per game.

    It is only because of Kings fans, who showed hockey could survive and thrive in a sunbelt city, that the Bay Area got a second chance at a franchise. It’s the reason Southern California got a second hockey club and Dallas was allowed to move from the hockey hotbed of Minnesota to Dallas. You’re welcome.

    Think about it. Why would the NHL give a franchise to Anaheim if the city bordering it with twice the population couldn’t support the Kings? The only reason why the Ducks have fans at all is because they got competitive right away during a time when the Kings were struggling. That is the very definition of a bandwagon fan.

    Secondly, the claims of puck luck by bitter Sharks, Ducks and Hawk fans is just too much. Puck luck doesn’t get you to the Western Conference Finals three years in a row. It doesn’t win you two cups and 10 playoff series over that time. Any knowledgable hockey fan knows you make your own luck with your style of play.

    Third, the post by “gambloduck” loves to talk about the injuries other teams had while ignoring the injuries the Kings had. Their defense was completely banged up to start the playoffs. Jonathan Quick was on IR for two months of the season recovering from a groin tear, and the Kings had their best winning streak of the entire season with Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones in goal. If it wasn’t for that depth in goal, they might not have even made the playoffs.

    Dustin Brown played the entire season with torn ligaments in his knee that was caused by Logan Couture—not the other way around. Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene played most of the year in and out of the lineup. Drew Doughty played most of the of the playoffs with a partially separated shoulder he suffered in the 1st round against the Sharks. Jonathan Quick played the last two rounds of the playoffs with ligament damage in his hand and had to have emergency surgery immediately following the finals.

    I find it hilarious that a fan base that roots for the likes for Raffi Torres, John Scott and Mike Brown are going to cry about how dirty Dustin Brown is, when he has all of 6 PIM this season and has been suspended all of 2 games over a 10-year career—despite leading the NHL in hits every year. Being a tough, physical player does not equal dirty. Knowledgeable fans know this. Dustin Brown is a target every game and I never see him cry to a ref or retaliate when he gets lit up with a big hit or a dirty play. Dirty is a guy like Corey Perry, who skates around using his stick to try and hurt people when the ref isn’t looking and squirts water in somebody’s glove when they take it off. Dirty is a guy like John Scott, who can hardly skate up the ice and has more suspensions than goals.

    “Puck luck” had nothing to do with it. It had everything to do with the Kings believing in each other as a group and not making excuses like the Sharks and their fans did every time a call didn’t go their way. You never heard the Kings once cry about a call or a bounce after a game. In fact, the Kings had more penalties called against them than any other team in the playoffs, but you would never know it based on the nonstop crying by the fans of their opponents. You also never heard the Kings boo their own team on home ice during the playoffs—even when they were down 3-0 and looked horrible.

    To point to one or two calls over a 7-game series and say that’s why you lost is such a loser move, but whatever makes you feel better about blowing a 3-0 lead I guess.

    • Keegan, California hockey fans salute you and your Kings for their past. Thanks for keeping hockey on the map in our state. But that’s so much in the past. Let’s talk about the present. The Kings are on the bubble of making the playoffs. Your team, the Sharks, Canucks and Flames are 11 points behind the Ducks at the start of 2015. Dallas and Minnesota might yet make a late push to get in the final 8. Maybe the most drama with the Kings this spring will be the wife beating trial for Sloba Voynov. Yes, Scott is a goon and should be banished from the game, but to compare Scott to Perry squiring water into a glove is comparing apples to oranges.

  2. Kings fans always have been ignorant to the consistencies it took during each playoff run . Lots of injuries to opposition and incredible amounts of puck luck , along with WAY too many egregious bad calls/no calls against the opposition . Jake Muzzin embellishes better than Dustin Brown now . The Olympic break saved that team that was tanking and burning out . If San Jose decided not to stop playing physical (to avoid penalties) and kept driving the center lane hard like the first three games, they win – PERIOD .Stool’s rabbit punch to Vlasic’s head taking him out and Mike brown and Torres’ injuries mid series hurt Sharks big time . Toews and Kane both came off of concussions prior to playing kings . Ducks lost Anderssen to freak knee injury (still think he’s not fully recovered) and Belesky to a cheap hit while he was down by , WHO ELSE, Dustin captain-knee-on-knee Brown . Way toooooooo many perfect storms . Ducks defense is mediocre but if they finally pick up somebody there LOOK OUT. The goal tending will show up .Winning three straight vs L A was no accident . Ducks were one less lucky bounce away from taking that series in FIVE .

    • Agreed, Sharks and Kings are much closer to the Kings than they get credit for, but the Kings do have the goaltending and depth that neither the Ducks nor Sharks seem to be able to figure out. But yes Kings have had lots of luck. It takes really deep and skilled teams plus lots of luck to win the cup.

      • The Ducks owned the Kings last year until Game 7 of the playoffs. Once again, Kings fans are having to live through a miserable, embarrassing season. Last year was the same. Sooner or later, when you play like crap in the regular season, you will find it carries over to the playoffs. At the start of this year, everyone wanted to pick the Kings. Now everyone says, it’s going to be like last year. The only thing that will probably be true is that it won’t be the same as last year. That’s why we play the game. Furthermore, the Ducks lead in the Conference is getting bigger, not smaller. A few nights ago, the Ducks, in their usual fashion, came back against the Sharks and won in OT. That had to be a very demoralizing loss for the Sharks. The rematch tomorrow should be interesting. As for the Ducks and the Kings, the Ducks have earned 3 out of 4 points so far. All this without Corey Perry. The injury situation this year has been incredible, but they still are the top team in the NHL.

  3. The Inferior SoCal NHL team is built for 82 games. Nothing more. Sharky’s Machine is made up of a bunch of playoff chokers who find it tough to play with one had around their neck and the other on a stick. The Defending SC Champs are built for 28 games. As we saw in BOTH cases last season. It is easier to win games in the Reg Season when rest and travel is not even for both teams. But when the Playoffs roll around and rest IS even for both teams the better team prevails. The Inferior SoCal team has 4 major weaknesses in the 4 spots you can’t have weaknesses at and still win the Cup: Coaching, Goaltending, Line Depth, Defense. Bruce BOOBreau has never made the CF – that is no coincidence. He is a terrible in game coach when the pressure is on. Last season Darryl Sutter embarrassed BOOBreau. The Inferior ones have no solid #1 goalie – the Defending SC Champs DO> The Inferior once have no line depth – the Defending SC Champs have 4 lines as seen by the fact the Cup winning goal was scored by the 4th line. The Inferior ones have terrible defense – the Defending SC Champs gave up the fewest goals in the NHL this season and while that is not the case in 2014-15 when the playoffs roll around 2x Cup winning goalie Jonathan Quick will once again show why he is perhaps the best MONEY goalie in the game. The Inferior SoCal team will probably once again finish atop the Division and get a high seed and once again struggle to make it out of Round #1 and then lose in Round #2. The Fair Weather fans of the Inferior Ones will once again wonder why their Inferior team was just that in the Playoffs while the DEFENDING SC Champs fans will once again celebrate over the dead and decaying carcass of our neighbors 30 miles to the South (For those who will reply I am a Bandwagon fan – NOPE! Been a fan for 40+ years. I saw Butch Goring, Mario Lessard, Daryl Evans and The Triple Crown Line all playing for the team. Google “Maguire’s Mess” and see that Ray Bourque was drafted with a pick the Kings traded away). Both of the Inferior CA Teams want NO PART of the DEFENDING SC Champs because they know 2015 Playoffs will end the same way 2014 did. #GKG!

    • completely agree on the depth, goaltending, and defense points, but the choking narrative is a lame argument. You can do better than that. Sharks have similar problems with depth n goaltending just like Anaheim. Although SJ has a better blue-line.

    • Nice break down of the Mighy Smucks. Cory is the biggest idiot in the league and Getzlaf is a hot head who hurts his team when he loses it (which is quite often) Nice to hear from another long time King fan too. I started watching the Kings in ’75 when I broke my leg and was layed up for months and happened up a Kings/Bruins Quarter Final game. I was hooked. They were a .500 team for many years but always gave the much better teams a great run for their money going 6 games against teams, like the Bruins, with much better records (although they did breeze thru Atlanta in the first series), but alas heartbreak at the end. I actually loved the Bench Clearing Brawls and the King’s enforcer were very competent at their job (Shultz, Wilson, Hutch, etc.). Still remember rather well the Kings/Flyers record setting Brawl that started when Randy Holt repeatedly bounced Ken (the Rat) Linesman’s head on the ice. Lol. Goring was my favorite for many years but Don Kozak was the most entertaining. I still find it kinda blasphemy for Fox to take Goring’s #19, but I’m glad Goring went to the Islanders and did great and was able to win the Cup finally. Wasn’t he also the Bruin’s coach for a while? Goring to Williams to Murphy, HE SCORES!!! Btw. Was it hard for you to accept the Oiler’s Gretzky after hating him for so long? Remember when he visited the Forum the whole crowd waved white hankies when he was on the ice. Lol.

    • Erik, you are right about one thing only. The Ducks will win their first round series and might even struggle a bit. However, likely that series will be against the Kings. Like you, I’ve been a hockey fan for over 40 years. At one time, I was a Kings season ticket holder, but it’s easy to look at a Kings franchise that has been horrible for most of the time since 1967 and realize that the franchise in Orange County is the class of California. The Ducks do not fear meeting the Kings this year, we are looking forward to avenging a bad game 7 and dethroning the King this year. To start the year, it was the Sharks that embarrassed the Kings on opening night but to end the Kings season, it will be the Ducks, in fact the mighty Ducks.

  4. If you want to know how bad Voynov is, watch the playoff highlights from the last 3 post seasons and then count how many times you see the number 26 in the screen as the opponent scores a goal. And before you tell me that’s because he is on the ice against the best lines, that’s not true. And if you watch closely, you will see that most of the goals are a direct result of his mistakes. I think the kings will be a much better team this post season with McNab replacing Voynov. That kid is a body checking highlight machine, and he is getting better all the time as he plays regularly. My sympathy goes out to Mrs Voynov, but that domestic abuse was the bhest thing to happen to the Kings since trading Fratten for Gaborik.

    • Sharks fans would say a lot of the same things about Jason Demers last year, but dmen scoring over 30 points in the regular season and 9 in 26 playoff games isnt easily replaced. Sharks moved Demers for Dillon, and got better, losing voynov without anything in return, and no cap relief, that is tough.

  5. Voynov was terrible in last years playoffs. You make it sound like he’s the most important player on the team. They might actually be better this year than last by the time they get to the playoffs because they have been playing Martinez and McNabb more than they thought they would, giving them valuable experience.

    • I dont recall Voynov being as bad as you say, but he is a right handed shot on the second pair and it has created cap problems up the wazoo. Dressing only 5 dmen because of a cap crunch, it’s quite the mess.

  6. You got that right Andy. The Kings are always a pain, literally a giant pain inflicting monster that enjoys the physical game in the postseason with an almost psychotic delight. But good God are they frustrating to watch during the regular season. Its painful to be a Kings’ fan during the regular season, let me tell you.

    Well, either way, we’ll see both of these teams in the post-season, in 4 months. Eat your cheerios and get healthy because we’re coming for your lunch money again. :-)

    • I have got to believe teams like Chicago and LA don’t have nearly the motivation in the regular season the year after winning cups. Hang over is real. But yup kings have knack for turning it up in the playoffs.

  7. Also think Ducks and Hawks have played a lot of games as well. This could be a great opportunity for the Sharks IF they continue to play well.

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