The Los Angeles Kings will face the most prolific NHL expansion team Vegas Golden Knights in their Western Conference playoff series starting Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
What will make this series competitive is that the season series was tied two games apiece, with each team winning an overtime game. The two teams played a home and home set of games back on February 26th, and 27th.
The Kings won both games by the scores of 3-2 in OT, and 4-1.
In the first game, Anze Kopitar tied the score with 10.8 seconds left in the third period and Dustin Brown delivered a power-play goal 3:14 into overtime, rallying the Kings to a 3-2 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights.
In the next game the next night the Kings dominated by three goals.
"The mistakes were self-inflicted," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "We made some bad mistakes in the neutral zone and turned the puck over and they capitalized. We had some chances. We created some chances. We just didn't play hard enough. We didn't compete hard enough in the blue paint."
Earlier in the season, the Golden Knights took both games, the first by a 4-2 margin in Vegas back on November 19, 2017. They took the next game in L.A. on December 29, 2017 by the score of 3-2 in overtime. David Perron's goal 3:30 into OT won it for the Golden Knights.
Two teams who have developed quite the rivalry will face each other to see who will move on past the first round of the playoffs.
The top three scorers for the Kings are Anze Kopitar with 35 goals, 57 assists. His 92 points are his best showing as a King and he actually bested his scoring by 40 points over last season.
Now that's a turnaround.
Next to him was Dustin Brown, who did another turnaround for the team. His 28 goals, 33 assists was the most he's gathered since he had 60 points back in 2007/08. In his next to last game this year he threw in four goals to help the Kings overcome the Minnesota Wild 5-4. He capped off that performance by scoring the overtime winner.
Following Brown was Drew Doughty who had just 10 goals, but with 50 helpers showing that he is still a premier performer on the blueline.
The Golden Knights will need to contain these three players if they expect to have a chance at defeating them.
On the Vegas side of the ice, the top three scorers are pretty potent.
You first have William Karlsson who was amazing all season. He potted 43 goals and 35 assists to lead the scoring for the Sin City club. To display his dominance, he was a +49 and had an outstanding 23.4% shooting percentage.
After him, another young player by the name of Jon Marchessault tallied 27 goals, 48 assists to really make the Florida Panthers regret giving him up in the expansion draft.
David Perron was the third best scorer on the Vegas team with 16 goals, 50 assists.
The Los Angeles Kings finished fourth in the Pacific Division with a 45-29-8 record good for 98 points and the top wildcard spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
They were 16th in goals scored in the NHL and, 1st in goals against. Their success relies on good defense and goaltending.
Their specialty teams are not bad either. They rank 17th in powerplay percentage, and are the best penalty killing team in the league.
So, in other words you're not going to score much against them, especially on the man advantage.
When you examine the Golden Knights' statistics, it's easy to see how they were so successful in their inaugural season. They finished with a 51-24-7 record for 109 points, which placed them fifth in the league.
They were fifth in goals scored and eighth in goals allowed.
Their powerplay was successful 21.4% of the time, placing them 11th. They killed penalties at an 81.4% ratio, placing them 12th in that category.
Since the Golden Knights have the home-ice advantage the first two games will be in the glittering lights of Las Vegas, and then the series will move to the movie capital for Games 3 and 4.
These two teams do not like each other, and that means there will be some scuffles, perhaps some fights, but for the most part it will be a defensive battle.
One of the best offenses against the best defense always brings with it excitement and action.
Special teams are pretty well evenly matched, so it may come down to a goaltending battle, and in this series two of the best will be playing.
It doesn't get much better than Marc-Andre Fleury vs Jonathan Quick.
Fleruy shows a 29-13-4 record, a 2.24 GAA, and a .927 SV%.
Quick counters with a 33-28-3 record, a 2.40 GAA, and a .921 SV%.
That is the definition of closely matched.
To predict this series is difficult. To bet against the Golden Knights who had a magical season would be even more intense.
In the playoffs defense and goaltending win games.
With that said, this writer is predicting that the Kings will take this series in seven games.
What is your take on this playoff series? Will Vegas have what it takes? Will the Kings prevail? Let us know in the comments section below.