Sharks End The Kings' Season
May 5, 2016
It was a dogfight to the end of the regular season between the Kings and the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, with the Ducks barely reigning victorious by one point.
That meant that the Kings were to play the Sharks, their fierce rival, in the first round of the playoffs.
The Sharks made it very difficult by stealing the first two games on the Kings’ home ice, taking away home-ice advantage.
The Kings won the next game in San Jose, but the Sharks would go on to win the the next two games, clinching the seven-game series at Staples Center, 4-1.
The Sharks’ past two postseason appearances ended with a tough Game 7 loss to the Kings in both 2013 and 2014 when they let a 3-0 series lead slip away.
Overall, each of their past 19 playoff games have come against the Kings, and this year they finally got the results they were looking for.
Let's take a look at how the Sharks won this series.
Former Kings backup goaltender Martin Jones, now a starter for the Sharks, outplayed Jonathan Quick.
The Kings traded Jones to Boston over the summer as part of the Milan Lucic deal. Luckily for the Sharks, the Bruins then traded Jones for a first-round draft pick.
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter had a feeling after the Sharks won the first game that it might come down to the goalie matchup and the matchup of both teams’ top players.
Sutter also thought it helped that Jones came from a good program when he was with the Kings. A good education from Quick and goalie coach Bill Ranford.
The Sharks’ top players outproduced the Kings’ top players, which was the big difference in this series.
When looking at the final goal and point totals, Brent Burns had a series-high eight points, Joe Pavelski is tied for the NHL lead with five goals in the first round, and Logan Couture had six points, including five assists.
But as was the case all season for the Sharks, Joe Thornton was arguably their best overall player and was just as dominant away from the puck as he was with it.
When his line was on the ice against the Kings’ top defenseman, Drew Doughty, the Sharks outscored them by a 4-0 margin at even-strength in the series.
Overall, Doughty was on the ice for 10 of the Sharks’ 16 goals, which is unusual since Doughty is one of the best players in the NHL.
The Sharks’ depth players also came through in this series. They not only outscored the Kings without Thornton on the ice (by a 7-6 margin), but they received goals from 10 different players, including Joonas Donskoi's two goals in the series-clinching Game 5.
The Kings made some significant changes to their defense during the regular season by bringing in Luke Schenn and Rob Scuderi in seperate trades. Their hopes were that these two players would help beef things up at the defensive end, but fell short.
In the end, the Sharks were a a faster team.
"Their speed was a factor, and they took advantage of it," Sutter said.
It also didn't help matters when the Kings lost Alec Martinez to injury. He was injured in Game 1 and didn't play the rest of the series. He was a big factor in both of the Kings Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014.
Sutter also spoke about the loss of Martinez. "It was huge," Sutter said. "It was down the stretch, too, if you look at it. You can't use injuries as an excuse, but when you're really evenly matched, when you look at it, they got (defensman Marc-Edouard)Vlasic back, we lose Marty (Martinez). It's like losing the top end of your defense."
On whether the Sharks have what it takes to make a Stanley Cup run, Sutter likes their chances.
"If they're healthy - you know what? They're set. They look really good," Sutter said. "They've got the good depth down the middle, they have good speed, and that six on defense is as good as your'e going to put together right now. They've got two goalies that are competing against each other that are really good, so I wish 'em luck."