The Los Angeles Kings will play the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Kings are in a bit of a funk entering the playoffs. They are 2-5 in the last seven games of the regular season. They lost four of their last five games, including 4-3 in a shootout against the Anaheim Ducks in the regular season finale for the Kings.
Jonathan Quick has been in goal for four of the Kings’ five losses to end the season. That’s not a good sign for the Kings, as Quick is crucial to the Kings’ playoff success.
It’s not like Quick has been giving up a ton of goals in the losses. He gave up three against the Minnesota Wild and only two in a loss against the Vancouver Canucks.
Still, the close losses are problematic, especially with the playoffs underway.
During the regular season, the Kings and the Sharks split four games. The Sharks won the most recent meeting, 2-1, on April 3. The Kings won their first meeting in overtime, 4-3, on Oct. 30.
Here is a look at the matchups for the first-round playoff series between the Kings and the Sharks.
Centers: The Sharks have the definite edge here. Joe Pavelski led the Sharks with 41 goals and 79 points. He played in all 82 games and will definitely be an offensive force in the playoffs.
Patrick Marleau scored 33 goals and played in all 82 games for the Sharks too.
Logan Couture scored 23 goals and Tommy Wingels, the checking line center, scored 16 goals. The Sharks have plenty of offensive weapons at center.
Anze Kopitar was the top scorer for the Kings with 29 goals and 70 points. He played the full season and had an impressive plus-minus of 34.
Jeff Carter had a nice season as well, with 27 goals and 50 points.
Mike Richards’ numbers are not very good. He scored only 11 goals in 82 games. He also has a -6 plus/minus.
Wingers: The Kings have a slight edge here. Justin Williams scored 19 goals and Dwight King had 15, probably more than expected. The Kings traded for Marian Gaborik and he contributed nicely, with five goals and 16 points in 19 games.
The biggest concern is the offensive dropoff of Dustin Brown. The Kings captain scored only 15 goals and had 27 points. He needs to put up way better numbers in the playoffs if the Kings are going to make a deep run.
Brett Burns scored 22 goals at right wing for the Sharks. After that, the Sharks are pretty weak. Matt Nieto only scored 10 goals in 66 games. Oft-injured Martin Havlat scored 12 goals in 48 games.
Defense: This is the Kings’ strength, but an upper-body injury to Drew Doughty might change that. He scored 10 goals in 78 games, but missed the regular season finale against the Ducks. The Kings were probably playing it safe resting Doughty for the playoffs, but if his injuries linger through the playoffs, it won’t bode well for the Kings.
Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin have emerged as top defensemen in the league. Willie Mitchell is always a pest in postseason.
As for the Sharks, their defensemen aren’t much of an offensive threat. Jason Demers had only five goals and Dan Boyle was a -8.
Goaltenders: Jonathan Quick is always one of the top goaltenders in the league. It was no different this year. His 2.07 goals against average was the fifth best in the NHL.
But Antti Niemi has been pretty impressive in goal for the Sharks. His 39 wins are the second most in the NHL behind Semyon Varlamov’s 41 for the Colorado Avalanche.
Quick had a .915 save percentage and six shutouts in the regular season. Niemi had a .913 save percentage and four shutouts.
The edge goes to the Kings, but not by much.
Prediction: The Kings win the series in seven games if Doughty is healthy. They lose in seven games if he misses any games with an injury.
Two races into the Verizon IndyCar Series and Jack Hawksworth is officially the hard-luck driver of the series.
The rookie driver for the team owned by Valencia’s Bryan Herta had top-10 runs ruined by late-race crashes that were completely out of his control.
The latest incident happened at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Hawksworth was running in sixth place when he collided with a pack of cars that was leading the race. He eventually returned to the race three laps down and finished a disappointing 15th place.
“It’s hard knocks getting caught up in a mess for the second race in a row, but Jack was doing a great job,” said Herta, a former IndyCar Series driver and Hart High graduate. “The Charter Networks/Castrol Edge car was poised for a great finish again, so I think we have to take the positive out of this. We ran well and had a great weekend, despite the result, and now we head to Barber.”
Hawksworth met a similar fate in the IndyCar Series season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“It was a disappointing end to the day, getting taken out by the accident,” said Hawksworth. “It’s a shame. We struggled a little bit for speed in the race but we were hanging up front. Thanks to the team for all the hard work. They put in a big effort and it’s a shame we didn’t get the result.”
Mike Conway wound up the beneficiary of the melee in Long Beach. He won his second Grand Prix of Long Beach in the past four years.
The next race on the IndyCar Series is the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 27.
Track and Field
One final note: the Saugus girls 4×1,600-meter relay team set one of the fastest times in the nation at the Arcadia Invitational, but it was only good enough for second place at the meet.
The team of Ashley Heys, Samantha Ortega, Abigail Frankian and Sabrina Janes ran the relay in 20 minutes, 18.84 seconds. They finished behind Great Oak, which won the race in 20 minutes, 12.79 seconds.
Saugus posted the second fastest time in the nation in the relay. Great Oak posted the fastest time in the nation. The Saugus girls also ran the relay in the third fastest time in meet history, which was set by a team of girls from Saugus in 2008.
Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the SCV Beacon, Ventura County Star, the Team USA website and covers auto racing for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.