The overarching theme to the Sharks-Kings first round matchup will inevitably be patience. For the Sharks that means avoiding the frustrations a good defensive team will cause during a series, especially in a matchup where both teams know each other inside and out.
[...] Terry Murray and the Kings probably know better than anyone how to stifle the Sharks offense-- whether or not they can execute that gameplan is an entirely different matter of course, but the mere fact that the knowledge is present means that the inevitable frustration over a goalless period is bound to eventually emerge.
[...] What Los Angeles lacks in offensive firepower they make up for in defensive ability. The Kings finished this season 3rd in shots against per game (27.9) and 6th in goals against per game (2.39), a testament to the discipline Head Coach Terry Murray stresses when it comes to his defensive gameplan. Murray fits the Dean Lombardi management philosophy perfectly in that sense-- develop a hard working, defensively oriented team that stresses responsibility in their own end, pressures the puck at every opportunity, and makes opposing teams pay for getting too cute in their passing game. Murray has the tools on the backend to do just that.
Los Angeles' top four is as good as any in the NHL [...] Drew Doughty is the Kings most important defenseman, seeing the most TOI and playing in all situations-- from even strength to the penalty kill to the power play, Doughty is a special player who has all the tools and will make a tremendous impact on this series. [...] [T]he kid may be 21 years old but he's as good a defenseman as they come.
[...] Willie Mitchell is the Kings second most important blueliner. Many here will remember the craze surrounding him during the offseason, and that craze has turned out to be justified-- Mitchell has had an excellent year for Los Angeles. [...] Big and positionally sound, Mitchell sees the toughest competition on the team and gets a ton of defensive zone draws. He was a huge part of the Kings fourth-ranked penalty kill (3:24 per game), and I'm guessing he'll be matched up against Thornton for the duration of the series.
Jack Johnson has marginally improved his defensive game this year, but still has the tendency to get a little too aggressive when pinching and carrying the puck. With the Kings pressing for goals due to the loss of Kopitar, taking advantage of Johnson's run and gun tendencies is going to be paramount for San Jose. Amongst the Kings top four Johnson is the weak link defensively.
I can't argue with that. But, see last year's playoffs and 2010 Olympics. Or, you could try this:
[...] Rob Scuderi rounds out the Kings top four and is another shutdown defenseman who has postseason experience-- he won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, and made a Finals appearance the year before as well. Think of Scuderi as a quicker but less physical Douglas Murray-- he'll block shots and eat up minutes on both the penalty kill and at even strength.
[...] The Kings blueline is their greatest strength and will provide the Sharks with some trouble throughout the next four to seven games. It wouldn't be surprising to see Murray implement a neutral zone trap and attempt to strangle a Sharks offense loaded with weapons, something that has the potential to frustrate a team who has made a habit of lighting the lamp with regularity down the stretch.