Western Conference Quarterfinal Preview: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
John Hefti - USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are set to battle in another playoff series that is sure to be full of the well-known California rivalry. This will be the fourth time in six years that the Sharks and Kings have squared off in the playoffs. Los Angeles has taken two out of the three completed series so far, and the Sharks are looking to even it up.

The biggest storyline of this series though is the Sharks avenging their epic playoff collapse of 2014. San Jose had a stranglehold on the series, up 3-0, and then lost four games in a row to lose the first-round series to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

The Sharks won the regular season series this season against the Kings going 3-1-1, but that all means nothing now that the playoffs are here. On the other hand, the Kings have won two of the past four Stanley Cups and have had the Sharks’ number in the last two playoff series matchups.

The Kings are proven winners and the Sharks have never made the Stanley Cup Final in their 25 years as a franchise. The Sharks have everything to prove and to win this series would do wonders in winning back some of their fan base that hopped on the Golden State Warriors bandwagon after the Sharks’ collapse in 2014.

Projected Lines

Sharks

Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Tomas Hertl

Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Joel Ward

Matt Nieto – Patrick Marleau – Melker Karlsson

Nick Spaling – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun

Brent Burns – Paul Martin

Brenden Dillon – Roman Polak

Martin Jones

James Reimer

Kings

Milan Lucic – Anze Kopitar – Tanner Pearson

Dustin Brown – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli

Dwight King – Vincent Lecalvier – Trevor Lewis

Kyle Clifford – Andy Andreoff – Kris Versteeg

Brayden McNabb – Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin – Luke Schenn

Rob Scuderi – Jamie McBain

Jonathan Quick

Jhonas Enroth

Forwards

Anze Kopitar in action against the Sharks. | Photo: John Hefti - USA TODAY Sports

Both teams have pretty good depth, but the Sharks have perhaps one of the deepest forward groups in the NHL. It could be said that a 1-2 punch of Thornton and Couture is equal to Kopitar and Carter. After that though, it goes to the Sharks for third and fourth line depth.

Marleau is the Sharks’ third-line center and at this point in his career he is better than Lecalvier. They have both dropped off from their best years, but Marleau still had 25 goals this year. Lecalvier only played in 49 games this year, but his 10 goals put him on pace for about 16 goals in a full season.

The fourth line matchup is an interesting one. The Kings definitely have more meat on their fourth line, but the Sharks have their mini Thornton in Chris Tierney. Tierney has phenomenal vision and strength on the puck and could cause some matchup issues against Andreoff. Versteeg has playoff experience for the Kings and adds some skill to the fourth line.

Overall, the forward matchups are pretty even, but on paper the Sharks look to have more skill from the top to the bottom.

Defense

John Hefti - USA TODAY Sports

The defense pairings are also in favor of the Sharks. Any lineup that has Rob Scuderi in it is not a strong lineup. He was a suitcase this year with being traded multiple times because no one wants him. However, Doughty is capable of playing practically half an hour every night and Scuderi may not see the ice all that much which could make that all irrelevant.

Muzzin is also a very strong defenseman and will see a lot of minutes during the playoffs. Having Muzzin and Doughty doesn’t make the Kings have a better defense than the Sharks though. The Sharks have essentially two number one pairings with Vlasic/Braun and Burns/Martin.

Their bottom pairing is solid and will be tough to play against for anyone who is on the ice. Both Dillon and Polak are big physical bodies that will punish forwards. Doughty is a sure fire Norris Trophy finalist, but the Sharks may sport their own Norris finalist in Burns. Vlasic could have also been considered for the Norris before he went down with an injury late in the season. He was on pace for about 50 points and was better than ever defensively this season.

Goaltenders

John Hefti - USA TODAY Sports

The Kings have the edge in goaltending. It’s hard to argue against the two-time Stanley Cup Champion and former Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Quick. Jones was Quick’s backup for two years and just had his first season as a starter. He’s unproven in the playoffs against one of the most proven playoff goalies in history. That doesn’t mean that Jones isn’t capable of outplaying Quick, but the odds are in Quick’s favor for sure and he’s earned those odds.

The Sharks have the superior backup goalie in Reimer, but it’s doubtful that Reimer will play unless Jones crumbles completely. Enroth is sure to not play for the Kings no matter what. Quick will be the Kings backbone in the whole series. The Kings go as far as Quick wants to take them. It remains to be seen how Jones will handle the playoff pressure.

Prediction

Sharks in seven games in what will be one of the hardest fought series in recent memory.

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