The Kings, Sharks, and Blues are likely divide the 4th-6th seeds between them; only the Sharks have a chance of falling to 7th. The Canucks have locked up their division.That means some of the league's top possession teams could very well clash in the first round.
Can you say "Danger Zone"?
HailRover kicked off the first part of our playoff preview by going over the regular-season meetings with the Blues, Sharks, and Canucks. Here, we'll look at the current rosters, possession stats, and deadline moves made by the Kings' possible first round opponents. We all know how much a team can change at a trade deadline -- it pays to look at the teams as they stand now instead of just the season as a whole.
Note: I included a stat called score-adjusted Fenwick here, because it can give better results with a small sample. All SAF numbers come from Patrick D's must-read playoff probability series over at Fear the Fin.
As you may remember, Eric T. used this metric to point out that the Kings were the hottest team going into the playoffs last year. He nailed it.
Here we go.
Moves and additions: Switched Brent Burns to right wing, where he's been racking up points (why aren't more people talking about this?); removed older, slower, underperforming players in Douglas Murray and Michal Handzus; replaced Ryane Clowe with Raffi Torres. Addition by subtraction really helped this team.
FenClose: 53.03% (9th NHL/5th West)
Score Adjusted Fenwick: 52.5% (8th NHL)
Behind the Net's player stats
San Jose was bit by some wacky shooting luck earlier in the season, but they hung on and became one of the most improved teams at the deadline. (Sound familiar?) Since those trades, they've been running 58% in Fenwick close. Niemi's having a Vezina-caliber season, so they're a threat any way you look. More should be wary of this team.
Odds we'll face them: 4.4% -- aww.
Moves and additions: Acquired tough minutes d-man Jay Bouwmeester to pair with Pietrangelo, and also Jordan Leopold for depth. Tarasenko and Steen are healthy again. Rookie Jaden Schwartz is on the top line.
FenClose: 53.89% (5th NHL/3rd West)
Score Adjusted Fenwick: 51.6% (11th NHL)
Behind the Net's player stats
The Blues, much like the Kings early on, have been severely underrated due to their goaltending woes. Elliott has improved of late, so they could be more dangerous if he manages to put together hot streak. Bouwmeester is the kind of quality partner for Pietrangelo they've been wanting for years. With Tarasenko back, they have more scoring threats than last year. And Pietrangelo isn't hobbled.
Odds we'll face them: 61.4%
D. Sedin-H. Sedin-Burrows
Everyone was focused on Roberto Luongo's extended stay drama at the deadline, but the Canucks benefit from having another top shelf experienced starter on hand now since Schneider may be hurt. Unless he's just resting. Their top line is one of the league's best, and now their second line looks much improved. They recently handed the Blackhawks a loss in a physical, impressive outing -- and they won't look past the Kings this time around.
Odds we'll face them: 34.2%
Bring it on
None of these teams should be considered a "favorable" draw for the Kings--but none of them should look forward to playing the defending champs, either. Los Angeles, as we've been pointing out all year, is the top possession team in the NHL at 56.98%.
Though the acquisition of Robyn Regehr has been a mixed bag, and Greene is out again, the improved performance of Jonathan Quick has come just at the right time. With better goaltending early on, they might have grabbed the division crown. Fortunately, Quick looks solid once more.
Chicago is no doubt a force to be reckoned with, but the strength of the middle seeds shouldn't be overlooked. With Los Angeles, San Jose, and St. Louis all vying for 4th-6th, two of strongest contenders in the West could very well go out in the first round. Such is the luck of the draw.