SCHEDULE: Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday, Game 3 Sunday, Game 4 April 17th
Amazingly, the Kings and their fans are going to take a break from complaining/campaigning for their players to win awards they don’t deserve to play a playoff series. But as we all know, what really counts is what individual awards your team garners. Anyway, the Kings might have drawn the sweetheart spot here and play a fading Vegas team that still was able to hang onto the division because the rest of the Pacific blows goats. Anyway, this could be a long series, but it won’t be all that much fun to watch.
Goalies: There will be a ton of talk about Jonathan Quick’s playoff pedigree, and it will ignore the fact that Quick has as many crap playoff campaigns as excellent ones. He was terrible in 2014 but his team was so high-octane it didn’t matter. And he wasn’t any better when the Kings got trounced in 2016 by the Sharks. Quick closed the season pretty roughly in three April appearances but that shouldn’t nullify how good he was in March. This was his best regular season since that 2012 triumph, so one should expect something closer to the dominant Quick in the playoffs than the one who couldn’t stop a sloth in the sand.
There may be a lot of talk of Marc-Andre Fleury’s playoff foibles, but that was a long time ago. Fleury has been at least good and sometimes excellent in his last three playoff runs, and was possibly the biggest reason the Pens got a second Cup last year when Matt Murray was hurt. And that Penguins team was not defensively sound. Again, he’s much more likely to be average or better than he is to have a full body burf that he did in 2012.
Defense: Well, they’ll try and tell you that Drew Doughty deserves another Norris, and he’s been good as he usually is. But he’s not Norris-worthy, and the Kings probably need him to be because the rest of this crew sucks. Dion Phaneuf is terrible, has pretty much always been terrible, and with how quick the Knights are you’re going to see how terrible. Alec Martinez is fine, I guess. Christian Folin is not. When you need Jake Muzzin, you’re in a place you need to get out of. Look or the Knights to get behind this team a lot.
I don’t know how the Knights did it, because this blue line should suck. The only one you’d want is Nate Schmidt, and maybe Shea Theodore if you squint. I’m not sure the Kings have the forward depth to attack this weakness, and if Jeff Carter is feeling frisky the Knights are going to have some problems. There should be chances and both goalies are going to have to be on their toes to keep there from being a lot of goals.
Forwards: The Kings are top heavy, with most of the heavy lifting being done by Anze Kopitar, who somehow also re-exhumed Dustin Brown. Toffoli and Carter on the second line have dovetailed into a playoff boomstick before, and that’s the Kings hope. If Adrian Kempe pops off that could tilt this. But there isn’t much on the bottom six.
Again, we don’t know much about what the Knights here, because we haven’t seen their top six forwards as top six forwards in the playoffs. Wild Bill Karlsson isn’t going to shoot 25% this series, you wouldn’t think. Can Marchessault and Smith get goals when it’s hardest? We know Haula does when he plays the Hawks. But they’ve gotten this are, and if they can replicate their “get it the fuck up there quick!” style from the regular season a plodding Kings blue line is going to struggle. If they convert those chances, this fluke might go a little farther.
Prediction: I don’t think too many people want to see either of these teams in the second round, but one’s going. The Kings hardly inspire, but the Knights won eight games in regulation since Feb. 23rd. Four of those were over Vancouver, Calgary, and Detroit. That’s not exactly roaring into the playoffs (and an indictment on the division that no one could run them down). I feel like the Kings are just going to attrition this. And it’ll take a while. Kings in 7.