The defending Stanley Cup champions from Los Angeles and San Jose were both lower seeds than the teams they faced in the first round of the NHL playoffs, but they battled hard and managed to progress. Now, these California rivals meet with a spot in the Western Conference finals on the line.
Fifth-seeded Los Angeles dropped the first two games in St. Louis, then won four straight to take out the fourth-seeded Blues in a six-game series where each game was decided by a single goal. Jonathan Quick looked the Conn Smythe winner he was last spring with a 1.58 GAA and a .944 save percentage, while Mike Richards’ five assists paced the Kings in scoring, but you have to wonder how much they have left in the tank after a grueling series. Still, after winning the Cup last year, you should never count out these Kings.
The Sharks were definitely underdogs on the betting lines as the third seed against No. 6 Vancouver, but San Jose got the brooms out and swept the Canucks out of the postseason. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture had eight points apiece, but Antti Niemi outplayed both of his Vancouver counterparts (Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo) and that was the story of the first round. Niemi had a 1.86 GAA and a .937 save percentage, and he’ll need to be equally as good against the Kings.
This will be a tight series to call as the two split four meetings during the regular season and the Kings were just two points better than the Sharks in the standings. The Sharks have been known as playoff underachievers but they should come into this series without much pressure. However, the Kings looked much more impressive in the first round, dispatching a strong Blues team whereas the Sharks faced a Canucks team that beat themselves. Look for the Kings to advance here.
Pick: Kings in 6