The Kings were down 3-0 in their opening-round series against the San Jose Sharks. They won that series. Los Angeles would win the first two games in the second round against the higher-seeded Anaheim Ducks, lose the next three then win Game 6 to force a Game 7 on Friday.
“Everyone is going to be excited,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We’re happy to be in this for California, obviously, but at the same time it is a war out there for us. We want to win and they want to win and it’s going to be a good game.”
The Kings won the Stanley Cup just two years ago but their coach told reporters he considers Anaheim the team to beat on Friday.
“I think this one, because you’re another two weeks into it, it’s another level of team that you’re talking about. We’re going into a building against a team that finished 16 points ahead of it,” said Kings’ Coach Darryl Sutter. “We talk about it all the time, about how much of an underdog we are.”
Here are three reasons the Kings should not be considered underdogs.
Ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, the Kings out shot opponents 1849 to 1412 during the regular season, giving them a league-leading 56.7 percent of shot attempts in their favor.
In the playoffs, the Kings are the only remaining team who has seen more than half of shot attempts in their favor under these same circumstances (50.6 percent).
Kopitar is the epitome of a two-way forward. He leads all skaters in points (17) and more than half his assists (7 of 13) have been the primary setup pass. He also shuts down the opposition, having been on the ice for just seven goals against during the postseason.
The Selke finalist also helps get the Kings time on the power play: he has drawn nine penalties while taking just four, giving him the largest penalty differential of any skater this postseason.
Doughty is one of the leagues best defenseman, and like Kopitar, continually shuts down the opposition’s best forwards. With the series heading back to Anaheim, Ducks’ Coach Bruce Boudreau has last change – meaning, he can choose his matchups for his top scorers Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. However, Sutter doesn’t make it easy.
In Game 1, Boudreau couldn’t get his top line away from Doughty (80 percent of Doughty’s shifts overlapped with Perry/Getzlaf) and Game 2 was much of the same, which “ticked off” MVP candidate Getzlaf.
In Game 5, 86 percent of Doughty’s shifts mirrored Getzlaf’s, which helps explain why Perry and Getz have just a goal each in the series.
“We’ve recovered now. We’re ready to play. They beat us. It’s a tough series,” said Boudreau. “It’s a great team we’re playing, but to think it’s devastating is ludicrous.”
It’s also ludicrous to think the Kings are the underdog.