Complete Freeway Faceoff series breakdown
MAY 02, 2014 6:18p ET
It's the series that hockey has been waiting 20 years to see. Finally, the Kings and the Ducks will play against each other in the Western Conference semifinals, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated regional battle.
SoCal finally has a much-deserved hockey spotlight.
Here's what you need to know about the first-ever postseason Freeway Faceoff series.
The Ducks, the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, have a wealth of forwards and even defensemen that are capable of scoring in a multitude of ways. It all starts with the two longtime team anchors, center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry on the top line.
Getzlaf and Perry both finished the regular season among the league leaders in points and Perry in goals. They work so well with one another that you could suit up an equipment manager and put him on the left side and it still wouldn't disrupt any line chemistry between "The Twins" (although one twin has considerably more hair). Andrew Cogliano and Nick Bonino are dangerous snipers on the second and third lines and fourth-line left winger Patrick Maroon is having a breakout performance.
The Kings top players have played like top players and when top liners Anze Kopitar (10 points, plus-3 rating in the playoffs) and Marian Gaborik are in their groove they can be nearly impossible to stop. Justin Williams' two nicknames, "Mr. Clutch" and "Mr. Game 7" speak for themselves.
While it's not an issue for the Ducks, it's not their calling card like it is for the Kings. The Ducks lost Stephane Robidas when his leg was re-broken during Game 3 in Dallas; a big blow for the Ducks, although they did get Mark Fistric and Luca Sbisa back. Cogliano is a monster on the forecheck and Getzlaf is a strong defensive forward as well.
The Kings will attempt to dictate their defensive style of play. They want to turn this series into a low-scoring, grueling, physical battle and have the ability to if they slow down Getzlaf and contain Perry. Games 1 and 2 of the last series aside, the Kings have allowed only two goals in their last three games. It's not always pretty to watch but the Kings are at their best when they're playing a gritty, defensive game.
This is the biggest question for Anaheim. Rookie Frederik Andersen made big news when he was named the starter prior to Game 1. But Andersen was pulled twice in the Ducks' quarterfinal series against Dallas and longtime starter Jonas Hiller shut the Stars down in the Ducks' Game 6 win. But it was a small sample size, and Hiller has struggled since coming back from the Olympics.
Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick, the recipient of the Jennings Trophy, has found his old form after two disastrous games to start the playoffs. His glove save on Patrick Marleau in Game 7 was the turning point in the clinching game and as he showed when he jumped Joe Thornton in Game 6, he's got a playoff fire lit underneath the crease right now.
Both of these teams were among the worst when it came to special teams in the regular season. But suddenly they've transformed into hot power play teams and penalty killing machines.
The Kings have scored six power play goals in their last five games. The Ducks, even without Robidas, are killing off 89.7 percent of penalties - tied for the second-best mark in the postseason.
Bruce Boudreau's postseason reputation is not stellar. His 24-26 career record in the playoffs is nothing spectacular and he has never led a team past the conference semifinals, despite the fact that his teams typically finish with some of the best regular-season records. Boudreau's team's aren't clutch in the postseason, but last weekend in Dallas they were. They didn't collapse, pack it up and go home for a Game 7. Even in the final minutes of the game they continued to push and were rewarded with a win.
Both coaches have done their share of line jumbling in the first round. Darryl Sutter dressed seven defensemen in Game 2 against San Jose and Boudreau dismantled nearly every line for Games 3 and 4 in Dallas. Both were failed experiments, but both coaches made the necessary adjustments to come back and win.
The Teemu Factor. The Ducks want to send long time right winger Teemu Selanne out with another Stanley Cup win. However, the Ducks have faced very little adversity and the Kings have shown that they thrive when the odds are against them.
The Kings have the same core group from their 2012 Stanley Cup run still in place and that chemistry was a defining factor in their historic comeback in the first round. That comeback itself could aid the Kings as they've won the last four straight and haven't had a chance to get stale and lose the momentum.
Ducks in 7. But it could very well go the other way because as everyone now knows, you can never sleep on the Kings in the playoffs.