Now that the Los Angeles Kings have made history and completed their comeback against the San Jose Sharks their focus shifts to their So Cal rival Anaheim Ducks. If the Kings want to get past the Ducks and continue making history once again, they need their three best players Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick to outplay their counterparts in Anaheim. While everyone on the team needs to step up, the “big guns” need to play to their talent level for the team to get it done.
Kopitar will be seeing a lot the Ducks’ dynamic duo of Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf and former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry. While they’re all high end players who can do amazing things offensively, Kopitar’s offense will need to take somewhat of a backseat this series. In addition to being a great point producer, Kopitar is the Kings’ best defensive forward and the only center who comes close to Getzlaf in size. He will need to make Getzlaf and Perry’s lives miserable by using his amazing reach and high hockey IQ to keep their scoring chances to a minimum while at the same time producing offensively. If Kopitar does these things, the Kings will be in an amazing position to beat their hated rivals from Orange County.
Doughty and Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler starred for their respective countries at the Olympics and have had great years for their NHL teams. Fowler has shown improvements in his all-around game, and he has been seeing more ice-time in more situations given the Ducks’ injuries on defense. Meanwhile, Doughty’s defensive game has been taken to new heights, and he was without question the Kings’ best player in the Sharks series. Given their respective high levels of play, they will both be front and center throughout the series. I have Doughty being the better of the two and tipping the battle of the blue lines in the Kings’ favor.
While the play of high-end forwards and No. 1 defensmen are important, the most important players for each team are their goaltenders. Quick will likely be facing off against Jonas Hiller, and their respective play can eliminate any mistakes made by the players in front of them. Given how well Quick is playing, it will take a Herculean effort from Hiller (or Fredrick Andersen) for the Ducks to have a chance in the series. With the proximity between the two teams almost washing out “home-ice advantage” and the Kings being the hottest team in hockey, I have the Kings beating the Ducks in six games to continue this run that I see taking them back to the Stanley Cup Finals.