April 12, 2011
RATTO ARCHIVERay Ratto
CSNCalifornia.com Conventional wisdom is an insidious evil. It provides comfort and contentment while gnawing at your very soul. It lengthens reaction times and dulls the senses. It is the road to hell.Or its the smart play, made by smart people. One or the other.Thus, while everyone who pays attention to the National Hockey League is quite sure that the San Jose Sharks will handle the Los Angeles Kings in good order starting Thursday, the wise person covers both ends.
With that in mind, here are five perfectly good reasons why the conventional wisdom about this series could be conventional, but not wisdom.1. JONATHAN QUICK
The Kings goalie is not yet fully battle-tested in the postseason six games in a lost series to Vancouver last year but next to Nashvilles Pekka Rinne, he may be the Western Conference goaltender best positioned to stand on his head multiple times against a superior team. And since everyone the Kings might face is a superior team, hed have to. The advantage he has is that under coach Terry Murray, the Kings have become a defensive team first, last and always, making the job of headstands all the easier.RELATED: Sharks depth chart Kings depth chart
2. THE DEFENDERS
This is Los Angeles most dramatic advantage. Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, you know about, but the depth is what separates the Kings. Murray, a former defenseman himself (you may remember him as a proud Oakland Seal), attracted former Penguin Rob Scuderi, former Wild and Canuck Willie Mitchell, and got dramatic improvement from Alec Martinez to form a five-man core that stands with any in the game. Johnson is minus-21, but the Sharks would take him in a heartbeat, and he and Doughty are among the games best puck-control defensemen. If they get their freedom of action, the Sharks jobs gets dramatically harder.
3. THE WALL
The Kings use their size to dominate along the boards, both with body work and persistence when it comes to digging pucks away from opponents. Part of this is Murrays upbringing, but the additional influence of assistant coach John Stevens, the former Philadelphia coach makes them particularly adept. It may, in fact, be the one thing that makes the Kings unique among the morass of Western Conference teams between seeds four and eight, and it may also be the one thing that the Sharks may not handle well. This is why Ryane Clowe may be the most important Shark in this series he is the teams best pure grinder, and much will be required of him.
NEWS: NHL headlines
4. THE HISTORY
The Sharks may have gotten to the conference final last year, but one of the reasons they have been so adept at flying under the radar is their years of underachievement in the spring. Nobody trusts the bandwagons they have built in the past, so they have taken comfort in the fact that there is no bandwagon at all this time. This, though, is true: You dont change your history until youve actually changed it, and while everyone who pays attention is focused on Vancouver as the capo di tutti capos of the West, the Sharks have been the hottest team in hockey for three months now. There are expectations, and then there are stealth expectations. And expectations are bad. 5. THE STUFF HAPPENS CLAUSE
There is something suspicious about these playoffs other than the delicious Chicago-Vancouver series, there arent a lot of upset possibilities revealing themselves. Nobody buys the Rangers against Washington, there is considerable skepticism about Phoenix over Detroit, Montreal over Boston, Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh and Buffalo over Philadelphia. Someone is going to break ranks here, and the fact that there is such unanimity of feeling about Sharks-Kings makes a body wonder what were missing. The answer is, Probably nothing, but it isnt so probable that it becomes a mortal lock. The Sharks look like a safe play, but theyve looked like a safe play before. In short, be careful what you assume, lest you end up hating the other Southern California team as much as you hate Anaheim.