While both teams have plenty of talent up front, the end result of this series may very well come down to goaltending. Both Jonathan Quick and Antti Niemi have Stanley Cup rings so aside from skill, there is no shortage of experience in between the pipes on either side. But who will emerge as the victor?
Jonathan Quick played twice against San Jose this season, going 2-0-0 with a 1.46 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and one shutout. In fact, Quick, combined with the efforts of Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens, boasted a 1.60 GAA and a .941 save percentage against the Sharks this season.
Sticking with Quick, he may have missed 24 games this season with a groin injury but as the season progressed, he played as if he never missed a beat.
While he wasn't able to win a medal, No. 32 was nonetheless phenomenal for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February. I admit that I was skeptical to see Quick take the reins of the starting job for his native country but when the NHL resumed play after the Olympic break, the 28-year-old backstop only got better.
En route to setting a franchise record in career wins and claiming the Jennings Trophy, Quick made highlight-reel saves in the latter part of the season like it was commonplace.
Coach Darryl Sutter played Quick to the bone in the second-half and No. 32 rewarded his coach's faith as he posted a 2.07 GAA and a .915 save percentage to go along with six shutouts this season. His 27-17-4 may not be much to write home about but it is notable to mention that the Kings average 2.42 goals per contest, ranking them 26th overall.
While it is unlikely he will see any action this spring, Martin Jones has certainly made a name for himself in his rookie campaign. After kicking off his career with a record-tying 8-0-0 mark, Jones went 3-6-0 but finished strong, ending the year at 12-6-0 with four shutouts to go along with 1.81 GAA and a save percentage of .934. If need be, the lanky netminder from North Vancouver will be called upon to help shoulder the load.
As for the Sharks, they may be entering this postseason with some controversy between the pipes.
While Antti Niemi has been the team's number-one netminder since coming over from Chicago in 2010, the Finn has struggled to end the season. As a result, backup Alex Stalock may be called upon to play, even if it isn't necessarily right off the bat.
With that said, Niemi still boasted a good record against Los Angeles this season. In his four games vs. the Kings, Niemi posted a record of 2-1-1 with a .910 save percentage and a GAA of 2.67.
As for Stalock, while he did lose in his only start against the Kings this season, he did allow just one goal on 21 shots in said defeat.
Overall, however, Stalock had a great year posting a 1.87 GAA and a .932 save percentage in 24 games. You can be sure that the native of St. Paul, Minnesota, will be ready to go should Niemi have any difficulty.
Whichever way you look at it, both the Kings and Sharks will have their work cut out for them and when this series is all said and done, the team with the better goaltending will emerge and advance to the next round.