Tuesday night is a big one for Los Angeles’ hockey teams.
The Los Angeles Kings begin the defense of their Stanley Cup Championship in St. Louis (at 8 p.m. ET) and later that night (at 10:30 p.m. ET), the Anaheim Ducks host Game 1 of their opening round series vs. the Detroit Red Wings.
Goaltending is key when making a long run in the playoffs. The last two Stanley Cup winners (Boston and Los Angeles) both saw their goalies named the playoff MVP. Jonathan Quick was nothing short of sensational in helping lead the Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup last year. While Quick got off to a rocky start this season, down the stretch he has looked more like the goalie that was virtually unbeatable last year. Quick closed out the regular season with a 5-1-1 record, surrendering just 14 goals in those seven games with a save percentage of .928.
The Kings will need another stellar performance out of Quick because his counterpart at the other end of the ice, St. Louis’ Brian Elliott, has been on fire. After a shaky start to the season, Elliott earned 11 of his 14 victories in the month of April. He finished the month with an 11-2 record, including three shutouts, and allowed just 16 goals in that time.
With goals likely hard to come for the Kings, it’s always nice to have a sharpshooter on your team and for the Kings, Jeff Carter is just that. He was fourth in the league in goals with 25 and his eight game-winners were a league’s best. Up front, the Blues are led by the talented Chris Stewart, who had 18 goals during the regular season.
The Kings will have their hands full with a Blues team that will be looking to avenge last year’s playoff sweep. Still, the Kings have too many weapons and offense and that should be enough to take the series in six hard-fought games.
DUCKS VS. RED WINGS
The Ducks return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus and find themselves matched up against a Detroit Red Wings team that won their last four games of the regular season.
However, the Wings earned an unfamiliar position as the seventh seed heading into the Western Conference Playoffs.
The Ducks will go as far as their top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan will take them. Anaheim scored the second-most goals in the Western Conference during the regular season and did have six players with 10 goals or more. But as one NHL coach recently pointed out to me, depth is only good when your top guys are playing their best.
The Ducks struggled with their secondary scoring in the latter half of the season. Nick Bonino, who returned to the lineup for the final four games, not only bolsters the second line but should give the Ducks some help to the power play.
The edge in this series on defense goes to the Ducks. Sheldon Souray and Norris Trophy candidate Francois Beauchemin anchor a blueline that is eight players deep. Souray and Beauchemin, the two veterans on defense, also provide an offensive upside. They will both be counted on make the Red Wings forwards pay the price for hanging out in front of the Ducks net and giving goalies Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth a clear view of all incoming shots.
If the Ducks stick to their game, there’s no reason why this series shouldn’t be over in five games.