Game of Thrones
If the regular season were to end today, the Sharks would draw the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the post-season.
Last year the Sharks and Kings battled for seven games before L.A. finally came out on top. This was a series where the home team held serve in all seven games. The Sharks have not won a game at Staples Center since 2011 and are 0-8-2 since their last win their on New Years Day of 2011. In most of the losses, the Sharks were beaten somewhat convincingly, and it was the difference in last year’s playoffs.
This year, the Kings seem to very simply have the Sharks number and have a pretty sound strategy to take down Team Teal should the two meet in the postseason. With the way the new playoff formats are written up, it’s more likely than not the Sharks will have to go through the Kings just to get to the second round. The Kings’ ultimate edge over the Sharks comes down to goaltending, where Jonathan Quick has become a netminder the Sharks simply have a difficult time solving. Not only has Quick been tough on the Sharks, but their backup Martin Jones has been equally as tough. Also take into consideration that though the Kings are slumping now, chances are good that by the time the post season rolls around they will find their game and be ready for whomever they draw.
The Sharks need to come with answers for shutting down or at least containing the likes of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Jeff Carter, Dwight King, Tyler Toffoli and more. Long story short, the Sharks have there work cut out for them here. My concern is that aside from the Sharks just having a difficult time at Figueroa & Pico, the Kings also seem to be okay playing on the road as well. They don’t pay attention to the boos, just to the details of their game. Their captain Dustin Brown fears nobody and already has shown the Sharks and their fans how far he is willing to go. Certainly the Sharks could counter with Raffi Torres. The only problem there is that Torres is on an extremely short leash with Brendon Shanahan and Gary Bettman. The first time Torres does anything that even hints of anything longer than a two minute minor, he will likely be suspended for the postseason once again.
For the Sharks to take the Kings down in a seven game series, they will have to be completely healthy as a team, and enter that series playing their best hockey of the year. If the Sharks can do that and remain injury free through the process this would bode well for them especially if they have home ice advantage. Even if the Sharks get home ice, it may be a good idea to see about stealing one game at Staples.