Sharks-Kings: Best Rivalry in the NHL?

First Meeting Since Opener

Saturday night the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings will meet up for just the first time since the opening game of the season. Can anybody remember that far back? The Sharks won 4-0 on the night the Kings rose their second Stanley Cup banner.

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With the return of a more balanced schedule, hockey fans don’t get to see as many games between division rivals. While there is something to be said for fans of each team getting to watch all 29 other teams live every season, there is also something to be said about more games between rivals. There are pros and cons to each. The current schedule pros for Sharks fans are less games against the Coyotes and getting to watch all Eastern Conference star players in person. The cons however are less games against the Kings and Ducks which are the most fun to watch.

Now even though the Sharks and Ducks are more known for fisticuffs, the Kings and Sharks rivalry is clearly the best one going right now, at least in the Western Conference. It would be cliché for me to use the line “these two teams just plain hate each other” because that’s the case with all rivalries. However, given the fact these teams have faced each other in the postseason in three out of the past four years, it’s definitely one of the most intense rivalries in hockey. Of course the majority of rivalries these days are built in the stands, there is more than just the northern vs southern fan animosity driving this rivalry. The Sharks players have qualms with a number of their Kings opponents. Dustin Brown took out Tomas Hertl last season with the 999th “accidental” knee-on-knee collision of his career. Jarret Stoll has twice elbowed Sharks defensemen in the back of the head in the playoffs, and Jonathan Quick loves to grab onto Sharks skaters when they aren’t looking. Conversely, the Kings seem to have a big issue with the way Mike Brown likes to crash the net. Quick is probably the most agitated from the Kings perspective whenever these two teams come together.

No Love Lost

Outside of the Logan Couture and Drew Doughty friendship, to use another cliché, there is no love lost between these two teams nor their fan bases. Kings fans like to chide Sharks fans that Thornton and Marleau will never win a cup, and Sharks fans like to dish back that Kings fans have only existed since June 2012. How can you not love the fan banter? This is what hockey is all about, rivalries make this game great. Many have mentioned that rivalries on the ice and in other pro sports have died down because of free agency and what not, but this rivalry is certainly alive and well on the ice. As Tomas Hertl famously stated last season, “I don’t much like LA.”

Dan Boyle joins a slew of defenseman who can score (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
Dan Boyle joins a slew of defenseman who can score (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

There is certainly a case to be made for Blues-Blackhawks, Kings-Ducks, and Sharks-Ducks, as some other good rivalries, but it is hard to match the drama of Sharks Kings. With the way last year’s series unfolded and the Sharks becoming just the fourth team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead, there is the utmost revenge factor possible. San Jose has now lost to the Kings two years in a row in seven games, and have had everything about their team questioned and criticized. From leadership questions, to whatever “coworkers not teammates” means, to coaching questions (yours truly guilty there), and on ice performances of various players, everything has been looked at. On the flip side, there are some question marks with the Kings. A number of players aren’t producing at their normal levels and the Slava Yoynov domestic violence case has the Kings missing a top-four defenseman who still counts against the cap (correction: that since has changed, Kings have gotten salary cap relief for Voynov). The Kings imfamously had to play with only five defenseman earlier this year not because of injury but because of the salary cap. So not only do these teams have a top notch rivalry but there are tons of question marks on both sides.

Going into their second matchup of the season, the Kings are just two points back of the Sharks. It will be a big four point swing if either team wins in regulation. If the Sharks win again on the road as they did in the opener, a four point lead with the next two head-to-heads coming in San Jose puts them in a strong position. Considering their current hot streak, the Sharks could start separating themselves from the Kings and Canucks if they continue at their current pace. If Los Angeles has any aspirations of catching San Jose and making a run at Anaheim, they would be wise to start getting hot very, very soon. The Sharks have once again made SAP Center a tough place to play in the regular season, Kings would be wise to take care of home ice this Saturday night to pull even with the white-hot Sharks.

30 thoughts on “Sharks-Kings: Best Rivalry in the NHL?”

  1. You got the Brown knee incident and Stoll throwing elbows, but all you could come up with for the Sharks was crashing the net? One of the first things to really light the fire was Ryan Clowe playing the puck from the bench, 2012. That move disrupted a possible scoring play and should have been a late game penalty. That game set the Kings up as the 8th seed. Most Kings fans don’t care now because we won the cup, but at the time there was no greater foul in the course of human history. Great rivalry, enjoy all the games. Kings fan since ’87

  2. You do realize that Voynov’s salary cap hit was removed weeks ago (don’t you?).
    It’s been in practically every hockey site since it happened.
    You lost your credibility when you stated that
    The Brown / Hertl incident is pretty self evident if you watched the video, as to who stuck out their knee.
    I would think a “writer” would not have the same myopic view as a fan, in this regard.
    What’s your opinion about signing john scott, and all his accomplishments?
    The sharx beat the KINGS on opening night, because of the emotional drain players
    get when they see the Stanley Cup Banner being raised.
    An emotion a great number of sharx players have never experienced.

    • Appreciate the heads up, I somehow missed that news. If you want to talk about losing credibility, Brown has been notorious for knee on knees his whole career. Hertl has the puck, Brown could have easily turned to his right to lay his body into him.

      John Scott doesn’t belong in the NHL.

      • Actually no … Brown is not known for knee-on-knee hits. That myth was propagated in the 2012 WCF series against Phoenix when he leveled Roszival, but as it was determined weeks later, Roszival actually received a deep thigh bruise, not a knee injury.

  3. “Conversely, the Kings seem to have a big issue with the way Mike Brown likes to crash the net. Quick is probably the most agitated from the Kings perspective whenever these two teams come together.

    Funny how you didn’t even mention Raffi Torres on Stoll…

      • Stoll and Torres are old friends and Stoll didn’t want anyone to beat Torres half to death, next time the Kings met the Sharks. Sorry Andrew, but Torres went for the head and in the heat of battle didn’t notice it was his friend whom he was targeting.

        • im not the only one who thought it was a fine hockey hit, initial contact was with the shoulder. Doug Wilson was fined for his description of the hit and how it was an unwarranted suspension based purely off reputation

  4. Living in California now I can see that this is a very strong rivalry, but not the best in the NHL. But where you come from can really create that bias. Since I grew up in St. Louis, the Blues/Blackhawks rivalry is still one of the strongest I’ve seen. Possibly because it’s as old as the NHL expansion teams themselves, and again, I’m biased. Great read though, and that playoff series between the Sharks and Kings was by far one of the hardest played by both teams last year.

    • If the Blues and Blackhawks played one more series in recent memory, then I would definitely put it ahead of kings-sharks. The latter have just played so much playoff hockey against one another, I think it’s the best one going.

  5. I think to Sharks fans, its a huge rivalry. It seems like they dedicate themselves to “Beat LA”.
    To us Kings fans though, its not nearly as big a deal. Yeah, its up there, but I’d say right now the Ducks & Blackhawks are much bigger rivalries.

    • It may indeed be a bit one sided in terms of the way you put it, but the sharks and kings having played so many divisional games and playoff games, i think the sheer volume of tight contests between the two must get the juices flowing even on the LA side. The norcal-socal bad blood.

  6. Nice article. My thought on the rivalry. The Sharks have a lot more to prove than the Kings at this point. I’ve been an avid Kings fan since well before Gretzky, and I’ve watched the Sharks since their Irbe years. The way I see it, the Sharks simply don’t have the type of players that win championships. If you want to win the cup in this league you have to be prepared to fight for every inch of ice for up to 28 games. You need guys with real fire and a burning desire to be a the top at the end of the playoffs
    . The Kings had some extremely talented teams well before their breakthrough years, but not until Lombardi came and slowly put together the team they’ve had for the past three years, did they have the players who knew, and wanted to do what was necessary, to win. The Sharks, for all their stellar talent, still don’t have those types of players or team make up. They can win all the games in the world in the regular season , but still won’t get a sniff until they also get the players who know how to win, and will fight to the bone to get the victories that matter.

    • Thanks for the compliment, although i can’t agree with your wanting it assessment. It is basically implying that Thornton and Marleau are incapable of winning the cup. Which I strongly disagree with, they are definitely good enough and have strong playoff numbers to back that up. The Sharks havent had the depth and goaltending that LA has gotten.

      • I’m not implying it so much as being candid in my assessment that the entire team make up is not one designed to endure the bumps and bruises that cup winning teams take. I’ve seen all the Sharks flame outs, and they haven’t come through the fire yet, and been netter after a rough series or early exit.
        Let be more specific though. When they lost to the Ducks a few years ago in the first round. I think it was the year Roenick played for them. That should have prompted them to come out the next year prepared for blood, but instead they flamed out again.
        The Hawks won with Niemi. Why can’t the Sharks? Again, my thoughts from watching both the Kings and the Sharks for many years, are that Lombardi crafted a team of players with no single player being the “focus” of the team. Just a bunch of guys who desperately were willing to get their hands dirty in the second season.
        Thornton and Marleau are the focus of the Sharks. Every year it seems the rest of the team is waiting for those guys to deliver the cup on their back. I can’t believe the Sharks made so few changes in the off season. As a Kings fan, I’m thrilled, because obviously the status quo is good enough for Sharks management. I’ll enjoy watching the script play out again just like every year for the past 11 or 12 years for the Sharks.

        • Well JR was awesome in 2007-08 first year with Sharks, 2008-09 he was meh, and sharks actually dominated that series vs anaheim, Jonas Hiller was a monster. Also idk how you can say the next year they flamed out, they lost to those 2010 blackhawks who were one of the best teams ever assembled, and Niemi was their weak link. Give that team a goalie like J Quick or Tuukka, and they might have gone 16-2 or something in those playoffs. That team was off the charts.

          The Sharks got severely outcoached in last years series. They overloaded their top lines when Sutter went 4 deep down the middle. Sharks are shooting themselves in the foot when they don’t play Thornton, Couture, Pavelski each centering different lines.

        • When you don’t achieve your goals every year. When you exit the playoffs every year short of what the entire league believes to be your potential, there is an element of flaming out. The facts are the facts. The Sharks are just good enough to lose when it counts. Kings fans went through much the same thing during the Gretzky years. I think pinning the Sharks playoff failures on a lack of a better goalie is too easy. A hot goalie can win you a series, but it’s a full team effort that wins any cup. I think the Sharks biggest problem, at least from seeing many of their playoff series over the years is a lack of resiliency. They’re resolve always seems to wilt in the face of hard competition. i can’t think of many series where they were a heavy underdog and came out on top. Only in the series against Detroit with Irbe, and that was about 20 years ago.

  7. I thought this was ‘The Hockey Writers’ website, where news and insight about the game of hockey was abundant, instead I find a fluff piece by a homer who is new to the sport, very disappointing.

    • Grew up playing street hockey and then high school and college ice hockey FYI. Not sure what you have a problem with in this piece in terms of bias. Everyone knows Brown is notorious for cheap knee on knee hits, and you can’t argue against Stoll’s elbows.

      • By saying that Dustin Brown is “notorious for cheap knee-on-knee hits”, you’re simply exposing yourself as a naive homer. You claim that you have played the game, so surely you know that decisions are made in a split second. When you look to hit someone, you try and position your shoulder or hip to make maximum legal contact. If your target suddenly changes his or her stance, it’s often not possible to revamp your own. I would point out that, while not definitive, the league has not seen fit to suspend Brown for any knee-on-knee malfeasance during his long career, despite the massive number of hits that he has issued.

        Now, if you want to state that Brown is notorious for diving, I’ll pat you on the shoulder and say, “amen to that”.

        • Brown has had a number of knee on knees in his career, far more than the average. Don’t tell me that is purely an accident. Hertl and Roszival were similar spots on the ice, albeit offensive blue-line and defensive blue-line in each case, but right inside the blue-line with a player cutting across.

  8. Ah, Andy. I love your articles. I love to hate the Sharks, as I’m sure you love to hate the Kings. Its a nice thing that I get to toast my team from a CUP and you get a thimble. (That’s me poking you, the Sharks’ fan with a very long and sharp stick.) LOL

    As you said, the rivalry is strong between these two teams but I think its more of a competitive rivalry. I watch most of the Ducks games, especially the Sharks-Ducks games. And I think our teams dislike eachother but hate? Nah, I think the Sharks hate the Ducks first and foremost, the Kings are a distant second.

    • Appreciate the compliment sir. Thanks for reading, every pair of eye balls helps, and i mean that literally, THW pays based off audience size. So thanks! And Sharks-Ducks fight more often but i think a good rivalry has more of a competitive edge and playoff series with it. Sharks last few years have won most of their games against the Ducks, and no playoff series since 2009. Where as Kings-Sharks have played three po series since then and are more competitive games. I see what you are getting at though.

      • Well, keep writing. I read all the articles on the Sharks and the Ducks as much as the ones on the Kings. Even though I prefer the Kings, CA hockey is important to me and having 3 powerhouse teams makes it fun to see who comes out on top any given year.

        • It’s great to see California teams doing well, especially since the east and north bias against “warm weather” teams.

  9. I don’t know. The Sharks get so close but just can’t close the deal.

    At least they’re better than the California ‘Olden’ Seals.

  10. The sharks problems have been goaltending in the playoffs, Nabokov was a good regular season tender but brutal in the playoff, same with niemi, if San Jose had a Tim Thomas in his prime they would of had a couple of cups, call a spade a spade

    • Yup, the Sharks havent had a hot goalie very often in the playoffs, 2013 was their best chance at the cup when they lost to LA in 7 because that was Niemi’s only good playoff in 4 years as a Shark. .930 save percentage.

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