Coming off their historic comeback to eliminate the San Jose Sharks, the Los Angeles Kings must now move forward and shift their attention to their other California rival as they set to kick off their West Semi-Final series against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.
As rich as this SoCal rivalry is, it's hard to believe that this will be the first-ever playoff meeting between the Kings and Ducks. But that is the case and both teams are looking to draw first blood in a series expects to be just as hostile as their respective first-round matchups.
While we all know how the Kings fared in their opening-round series, the Ducks ousted the Dallas Stars in six games, thanks to a late third-period comeback in the series-clincher before winning it in overtime. Until that sixth game, the home team had won every game of the series, which means the Los Angeles Kings will play the first two games of the West Semi-Final at the Honda Center, where the Ducks have yet to lose this postseason.
In the season series, the Kings managed just one win in five attempts against the Ducks, going 1-3-1 overall. However, their lone win did come at the aforementioned Honda Center on December 3. But it was Martin Jones who won in his NHL debut as Jonathan Quick was still sidelined with a groin injury. But since then, Anaheim had their way with their crosstown rivals, although in fairness, two of their wins came in late January when the silver-and-black were hard-pressed for goals. The latter loss was unfortunately the Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium where the Kings lost 3-0.
During the regular season, the Ducks scored 60 more goals than Los Angeles (266-206) but it was the Kings who allowed 35 fewer goals (174-209). In fact, their average of 2.05 goals against per game ranked the Kings first overall during the regular season. Of course, if the first two games of these playoffs were any indication, the regular-season totals mean very little. Then again, if Los Angeles's last three games of their first-round series are any indication, their totals during the first season mean a lot more than some may think.
As far as power play efficiency goes, both the Kings and the Ducks finished near the bottom of the standings during the regular season. Anaheim's 16.0 per cent ranked them 22nd while Los Angeles's 15.1 per cent was good enough for 27th-overall. On the penalty-killing side, both teams were very similar. Los Angeles was ranked 11th-overall with 83.1 per cent while the Ducks were 13th at 82.2.
In the playoffs thus far, the Kings lead the way with 26 goals while the Ducks are fifth with 20. The Kings, however, are next-to-last with 22 goals against so far while the Ducks are in the middle of the pack, 8th with 18 goals against.
In spite of the end result of their first two games in San Jose last round, there is no question who the Los Angeles Kings will be going with in goal. From Game 3 on, Jonathan Quick just got better and better as the series went along. As for Anaheim, the answer in goal may not be as easy to answer. While Frederik Andersen did receive the bulk of his team's playing time in goal, it was Jonas Hiller who came on in relief in Game 6 in Dallas, helping his team advance to the next round. But while he did shut out the Kings this season, Jonas Hiller went a modest 1-1-0 against the silver-and-black. Andersen, meanwhile, was a perfect 3-0-0 against Los Angeles. Expect the latter to get the nod to at least start the series.
Both Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams led the way for Los Angeles with four goals apiece thus far in these playoffs while Ryan Getzlaf leads the Ducks with three tallies. While this should be a great defensive matchup, don't be surprised to see the lamp being lit quite a bit in this series.
When the puck drops for Game 1 on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Kings will have been off for three days while the Anaheim Ducks will have been off for six. Whether rest or rust will prove to be factors early on remains to be seen but one thing is for sure: this will be a hard-nosed, physical series as these two hated rivals will endure themselves in a survival of the fittest.
But whatever happens, let's all just hope that the Ducks don't wear those God-awful orange jerseys.
Enjoy the series!