Playoff Scenarios and Potential Matchups.... Who Do You Want the LA Kings to Face?

Who will be standing on the other blueline? - Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

The Kings will face either the Vancouver Canucks, the St. Louis Blues, or the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. How each could happen, and examining the pros and cons of each matchup.

Well, this was supposed to be a little more clear cut by now, wasn't it? After Sunday's victory against Dallas, the Los Angeles Kings were almost a shoo-in for the #4 seed in the Western Conference. As it turns out, all we needed from our final three games was three measly points. Unfortunately, two consecutive losses have left us with a much cloudier outlook.

There are three teams we can face in the first round. Let's look at each potential matchup, as well as some pros/cons and the odds of it happening (via Sports Club Stats). Niesy is going to have some deeper analysis of each of three teams as well.

St. Louis Blues

What outcomes will result in this first-round matchup?

A win on Saturday against San Jose ensures this matchup. If St. Louis wins as well, the Kings will face them as the #5 seed, opening the series in St. Louis. If the Blues lose, we clinch the #4 seed; due to tiebreakers, even a point is not enough for St. Louis.

What happened in the season series?

Game 1: The Kings dominated the Blues on the road en route to a 4-1 victory.

Game 2: LA rode a four-goal third to a 6-4 comeback win at Staples.

Game 3: A late Mike Richards goal propelled the Kings to a 4-2 win and a season sweep.

Why do we want to face the Blues?

We've had great success against them this season; their starting goaltender will be either Jaroslav Halak (just returning from injury) or Brian Elliott; while St. Louis is well-rounded, they don't have stars who can take over a game.

Why don't we want to face the Blues?

The Blues are 11-3 in April and have won 5 of their last 6 behind good goaltending from Elliott; they are a strong possession team; St. Louis has been slightly unlucky this season and are a legit #4 seed.

What are the odds that the Kings draw St. Louis?

There is a 38% chance of the Kings facing St. Louis as a #4 seed and a 24% chance of the Kings facing St. Louis as a #5 seed. However, given that Chicago has nothing to play for, I'd give the Blues a higher chance of winning tomorrow.

San Jose Sharks

What outcomes will result in this first-round matchup?

Only a combination of results can make this possible. We would need to lose in overtime or a shootout, and the St. Louis Blues would have to lose outright. This would cause us to jump St. Louis, but San Jose would jump both Los Angeles and St. Louis to clinch the #4 seed and home-ice.

What happened in the season series?

Game 1: Brent Burns and a productive four-minute power play helped San Jose triumph 4-3 at HP Pavilion.

Game 2: In one of Antti Niemi's worst games this year, LA cruised to a 5-2 win in Tyler Toffoli's NHL debut.

Game 3: The Sharks won a 3-2 barn-burner, thanks to Niemi and a Raffi Torres shootout winner.

Game 4: Tomorrow night at Staples. With a regulation win the Kings can win the season series outright, something they haven't done since 2004.

Why do we want to face the Sharks?

The Sharks have only 17 regulation/overtime wins this season (tied for 23rd in the NHL); Los Angeles has outshot the Sharks in every matchup; history provides plenty of motivation.

Why don't we want to face the Sharks?

Antti Niemi could be the stereotypical hot playoff goalie, while Quick has struggled; Brent Burns is terrifying; history provides plenty of negative memories.

What are the odds that the Kings draw San Jose?

There is just a 4% chance of the Kings facing San Jose. Don't hold your breath, especially since the Kings tend to avoid shootouts and the Blues could easily invalidate this entire possibility by winning their game.

Vancouver Canucks

What outcomes will result in this first-round matchup?

A regulation loss tomorrow will put the Kings in the sixth place. Even if the Kings earn one point against San Jose, a St. Louis win or overtime/shootout loss against Chicago would result in the Kings traveling to Vancouver. Recall that in 2010, the sixth-seeded Kings lost to the Northwest Division champs, so this would be the third time in four years the two teams faced off in Round 1.

What happened in the season series?

Game 1: Slava Voynov's goal with an extra attacker tied the game en route to a 3-2 shootout win at Staples.

Game 2: The Sedins dazzled and Jonathan Quick struggled in a 5-2 loss in British Columbia.

Game 3: Mason Raymond's breakaway goal was enough for a 1-0 defeat, despite Vancouver only getting 13 shots.

Why do we want to face the Canucks?

Vancouver actually has worse possession numbers than either St Louis or San Jose; Cory Schneider's undisclosed day-to-day injury puts Vancover back in goaltender controversy mode; hey, we beat them last year.

Why don't we want to face the Canucks?

The Canucks have had a more, ahem, relaxing stretch run; Roberto Luongo is as good a backup option as an NHL team can ask for; the Sedins are scoring less, but have improved their all-around game and are still no fun to play against.

What are the odds that the Kings draw Vancouver?

There is a 34% chance of the Kings facing Vancouver. This is actually lower than I expected, but Sports Club Stats thinks we are better than the Sharks and thus likes our chances of winning tomorrow.

The Blues face the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow at 5:00 PM PST, which means that by the time LA-SJ kicks off at 7:30, we may already know whether home ice is at stake. Who do you want to face? Give us your take in the comments.

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