2014 NHL Playoffs second round preview: Ducks vs. Kings
Regular season recaps
Anaheim wins series, 3-2
Dec. 3: Kings 3, Ducks 2 (SO)
Jan. 23: Ducks 2, Kings 1
Jan. 25: Ducks 3, Kings 0
Mar. 15: Ducks 2, Kings 1
Apr. 12: Ducks 4, Kings 3 (SO)
Keys to a Ducks victory
Bruce Boudreau survived a gamble on Frederik Andersen in the opening round. Can he do it again? Maybe it was the lingering effects of a late-season injury or just a rough welcome to his first NHL playoffs, but the rookie didn't inspire a lot of confidence with his play against the Dallas Stars. He enters this series with a 3.40 GAA and an .892 save percentage after being pulled in Game 6. Jonas Hiller backstopped the series clincher in relief, but won just six of his final 18 appearances during the regular season. Tough choice, but whoever starts has to give the Ducks much better goaltending in this round.
Defensemen Cam Fowler and the criminally underappreciated Ben Lovejoy did a terrific job muting the impact of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Their assignment in this round, shutting down Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, won't be any easier. Given the lack of depth on Anaheim's back end, this pair can't falter.
The Ducks forwards will want to test L.A.'s D with their speed and physical play. It all starts with Ryan Getzlaf, who was a beast against Dallas, and Corey Perry. Boudreau rotated a cast of wingers alongside them, but may have found the perfect fit in Nick Bonino. He's coming off a career year (22 goals, 49 points) and a strong showing in the Dallas series (3-1-4, including the OT clincher in Game 6). Devante Smith-Pelly was a force at times, overpowering Dallas' smaller, slower secondary defenders and scoring a couple of huge goals, and Andrew Cogliano always seemed to be creating something with his speed. Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu were non-factors against Dallas. They need to step up. As a group, the Ducks have to get more pucks to the net. They averaged just 27.8 shots in the first round against a lower-tier Dallas defense. They're facing a much tougher challenge in the Kings and their league-leading defense. If they want to dent Jonathan Quick, quantity will be key.
Keys to a Kings victory
Anyone who saw him shut down the Sharks knows that Quick is in the zone right now. Loose and confident, he can beat the Ducks by himself. He stopped 94 of the final 96 shots he faced in the San Jose series. His .979 save percentage might be unsustainable, but it paints a vivid picture of what the Ducks are up against. The Kings will miss Willie Mitchell on the back end--and they'll want to shelter his replacement, Matt Greene--but they can still rely on a skilled and disciplined defense corps that limits chances. Drew Doughty looked like a player who sensed the weight of his opportunity in the first round, dominating at both ends of the ice. He can take over a game with his ability to generate chances in transition, or finish them off with a timely pinch.
The offense of the Kings finally clicked in Game 4 after coach Darryl Sutter bumped Dustin Brown to the first line and dropped Justin Williams to the third, but the key to this round might be finding additional opportunities for Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. The youngsters flustered the Sharks with their speed, creating several chances off the rush. If they see time against depth D like Mark Fistric and Bryan Allen, they'll be a handful. Anze Kopitar was instrumental in the Kings' comeback win over the Sharks, shutting down Logan Couture while putting up a team-leading 10 points (four goals, six assists). Getzlaf will pose a heavier challenge for him this round, but he's every bit as good as the Hart finalist. Look for Kopitar and running mate Gaborik to play key roles. As a group, the Kings will want to wear down Anaheim's defenders in the corners and in front of the net. This team is at its best when it's miserable to play against, so look for them to commit to that approach early in Game 1.
Kings in 5. A short series? Bet on it. That's not to say it won't be a hard-fought thriller, but the advantages the Kings have in goal and on the blue line are too pronounced for this to drag on long.
(All times Eastern; * if necessary)
Game 1: Sat. 5/3 at Ana, 8 (NBCSN, TSN, RDS)
Game 2: Mon. 5/5 at Ana, 10 (NBCSN, TSN, RDS)
Game 3: Thur. 5/8 at LA, 10 (NBCSN, TSN, RDS)
Game 4: Sat. 5/10 at LA, TBD (TSN)
*Game 5: Mon. 5/12 at Ana, TBD (TSN)
*Game 6: Wed. 5/14 at LA, TBD (TSN)
*Game 7: Fri. 5/16 at Ana, TBD (TSN)