It’s the series that everyone on the West Coast has been waiting for: The Kings and Ducks and will finally face one another in the playoffs, setting up a Freeway Faceoff Series 20 years in the making.
It’s not a traditional rivalry. While the Bruins and Habs are bringing out of the hockey historians on the East Coast, the Kings once again showed Wednesday night in their epic comeback to eliminate the Sharks, they prefer to write their own history.
Not to mention, there’s the added benefit of the easy travel accessibility.
"It is really good for both teams from a travel standpoint at this time of year," said Kings’ captain Dustin Brown. "When we were going back and forth to Chicago and St. Louis, that can wear on you in a series, but now both teams have that advantage here."
But the bigger picture in play is what it does for hockey, a traditional game, in a non-traditional market.
Whether it’s an East Coast media bias or the late-night West Coast TV times in other time zones, it’s not a rivalry or an area that gets the attention. Both teams have won Stanley Cups in the last seven years and the Sharks have been a Western Conference power for a decade. In January, the two teams played in the first NHL outdoor game west of the Mississippi. Finally, California had hockey’s attention.
This series could get pretty nasty
-- Ducks forward Nick Bonino
Next week, it will finally have it again.
"I think it’s great for Southern California hockey to finally have this matchup," Brown said.
"Ducks-Kings has never happened, so it’s going to be fun and exciting series for everyone," said Anaheim forward Matt Beleskey. "The fans might be able to see a couple of games on the road and at home. It’s going to be a great series."
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From the standpoint of the fans, it’s as heated as a rivalry gets. Orange County fans take pride in standing out as their own market with their own teams. It’s not Hollywood, and it doesn’t pretend to be. The Kings, on the other hand, are as Los Angeles as Los Angeles gets. Look no further than Will Ferrell and Kobe Bryant filming crowd videos.
But on the ice it’s a different story. Despite the proximity, the two have never met in the playoffs, and the Kings say it takes a postseason series to develop a true rivalry.
"The Ducks and the Kings have never met in the playoffs and everybody wants there to be this rivalry between the two teams," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "But some of the players, we just don’t have that yet. Now that we’re finally going to play each other in the playoffs, it’s going to create a rivalry."
However, the Ducks might disagree.
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"You’ll see pretty quickly that the guys don’t like each other," said Ducks forward Nick Bonino on Thursday’s Jay Mohr Sports show. "This will be one of the most physical series of the playoffs. It always is in the regular season. No calling out guys, but you’ll see in Game 1 it will be a pretty intense series.
"If anyone has followed us, they know this series could get pretty nasty."
It wouldn’t be the playoffs it wasn’t nasty.
"We’ve played against the Kings so many times, we all know each other," Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "It’s just going to be a good, hard-fought battle. There are no surprises. We’re excited to get things started."