The Sharks will be keeping a close eye on the Ducks-Kings matchup at Staples Center tonight.
Ducks or Kings? Kings or Ducks?
That’s the question on the minds of all San Jose Sharks fans as the 2015-16 regular season winds down. After both the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings each secured points on Tuesday, that meant San Jose could no longer win the division, thus ensuring a first-round meeting with one of their Southern California rivals when the postseason gets started next week.
With that in mind, let’s take a look to see which opponent the Sharks want to face.
Let’s start with the three-time defending champion Ducks, who have the three games remaining in their season. After a rough start to the season, Anaheim came on like gang-busters to thrust themselves back to the top of the Pacific.
The Ducks get things done with team defense and special teams as they lead the league in goals against per game (2.32) and goals allowed (183). Also. Anaheim possesses the league’s best power play (23.3 percent) and penalty kill (87.0 percent) as all three areas are key come playoff time. Case in point, San Jose was held scoreless on the power play this year against Anaheim.
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Ryan Getzlaf (62 points) and Corey Perry (33 goals, 58 points) are still the unquestioned leaders of the Ducks, while Ryan Kesler is the perfect shutdown center. Anaheim’s defense is deep and mobile, which tends to make life difficult for their opponents.
The two main concerns with Anaheim has been their inability to score goals at times and their goaltending. While the Ducks have two promising starters in John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, both have struggled in the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Kings have been at the top of the division for a majority of the season, but have run into trouble of late dropping six of their past nine. With L.A., you know what you’re going to get in a heavy, tight-checking game.
The Kings are led by the trio of Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar, who have all had fantastic seasons. Los Angeles ranks third in goals against at 2.35, while ninth on the power play and 13th in goals for per game.
With both teams tied at 99 points, their matchup tonight at Staples Center will likely decide who wins the division and who gets San Jose.
From a Sharks perspective, there isn’t much of a difference between the Ducks or Kings as it will be a tough, physical series regardless. However, San Jose tends to match up better against L.A.
Team teal went 3-1-1 against the Kings this season, while going 1-3-0 against the Ducks, although all three losses were by a single goal. While Anaheim has dealt with a rash of injuries of late, Los Angeles hasn’t been playing very well as they’ve faltered over the past couple of weeks, including a 5-2 loss against the Sharks on March 28.
Also, San Jose knows they can get to Quick as they’ve frustrated him in the past and they lit him up this season. The Sharks defeated Quick in all three of their wins as the Kings netminder posted a 4.40 GAA and an .845 save percentage. Neither are very good numbers.
The one trepidation is the mental aspect as nobody knows how San Jose will react to seeing the Kings after their 3-0 collapse back in 2014. Los Angeles is a very tough team to finish off as they have a knack for coming back at the most improbable of times.
Despite all that, what a motivational boost it would be for the Sharks if they could make amends for 2014. From the start of this season, Peter DeBoer has said this is a different group and different team, and what better way to prove that than taking down the same team that sent this franchise into a tailspin.
For that reason, team teal should welcome a first-round meeting against the Kings.