The Kings are hoping the second all-California NHL playoff series ends just like the first: In favor of Southern California.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-3 home loss to Detroit on Sunday means that the Kings will be the seventh seed in the Western Conference and play the second-seeded San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.
The Sharks will have home-ice advantage when the best-of-seven series starts, which begins Thursday.
Update: Here is the schedule:
Game 1 at San Jose Thursday, 7 p.m.
Game 2 at San Jose Saturday, 7 p.m.
Game 3 at Kings April 19, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 at Kings April 21, 7:30 p.m.
Game 5 * at San Jose April 23, 7:30 p.m.
Game 6 * at Kings April 25, TBD
Game 7 * at San Jose April 27, TBD
* = if necessary
The Kings and Sharks have never played each other in the playoffs, but the Kings do have experience winning as a seventh seed: Their last playoff series victory came in 2000, when the seventh-seeded Kings toppled the second-seeded Detroit Red Wings in six games.
To repeat the feat would require a sizable upset, but not any more so than the Ducks’ six-game series victory over the Presidents Trophy-winning Sharks in 2009.
The Sharks ended the season on a 27-6-4 run over their final 37 games, a span in which they climbed from 12th in the conference on Jan. 14 to second. During that span, the Kings beat the eventual Pacific Division champions twice during that span in the shootout and lost once in regulation.
Overall, the Kings finished 3-3-0 against San Jose this season — 1-2 on the road, 2-1 at home, and getting both home wins via shootouts.
Seven Sharks forwards –Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi –scored at least 20 goals. All finished with at least 40 points, as did defenseman Dan Boyle (9-4-50).
While San Jose offense was a known quantity coming into the season, goaltender Antti Niemi had to rebound from a dreadful start to lead the Sharks’ surge and eventually capture Team MVP honors. After Dec. 1, Niemi posted a .926 save percentage and a 2.16 goals against average. The Stanley Cup-winning starter for the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks, Niemi started 34 consecutive games from Jan. 15 through April 4, going 25-4-4 with a 2.05 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
Niemi got help from a well-rounded blue line led by the veteran Boyle. There’s some skill, some experience, and some youth on each pair: Boyle has been paired with stay-at-home defenseman Marc-Eduoard Vlasic (four goals, 18 points, plus-14 rating); Ian White (two goals, 10 points, plus-9 since arriving in a trade with Carolina) has been paired with second-year man Jason Demers (2 goals, 24 points, plus-19); and the bottom pair is likely to feature rookie Justin Braun (2 goals, 11 points, minus-1) with Niclas Wallin (three goals, eight points, even-0).
The Sharks finished second in the league in faceoff percentage (53.7), first in shots per game (34.5, a favorite stat of head coach Todd McLellan) and second in power-play efficiency (23.5).