As the Vegas Golden Knights prepare for their inaugural playoff series, their opponents, the Los Angeles Kings, find themselves in familiar territory. The expansion team (Golden Knights) are heading into uncharted waters for its first-ever playoff experience. Meanwhile, the 2012 and 2014 Cup champs (Kings) are stocked with experienced veterans with looking to return to the top of the post-season mountain. It is Los Angeles versus Las Vegas.
Forgive the cliche, but it cannot be scripted any better.
In the immediate, this series will feature one of the season’s best offensive clubs taking on one of its best on the defensive side. The Golden Knights finished fourth in the league in terms of goals scored, iced the 10th best power play, and averaged the ninth-most shots per game. On the flip side, the Kings allowed the fewest goals league-wide. They have the season’s best penalty kill numbers and averaged the eighth-fewest shots-against per game.
The Kings emerged as the biggest rival for the surprising Golden Knights during the regular season, so this series couldn’t have fallen into place any better for the NHL.
As this series gets set to face-off, let’s take a look at the tale of the tape.
Season Series (Tied 2-2)
The four regular-season meetings between the Kings and Golden Knights during the regular season were an even split. Each side earned two wins and each got one of those in regulation and one in overtime. You might say this was a dead heat (pun intended.)
November 19, 2017: Golden Knights 4, Kings 2
December 28, 2017: Golden Knights 3, Kings 2 (OT)
February 26, 2018: Kings 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
February 27, 2018: Kings 4, Golden Knights 1
For starters, Anze Kopitar will be an intriguing foe for the Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith line. Kopitar has the ability to dominate this matchup, providing he brings his “A” game. The Kings have a host of Stanley Cup winners on their roster, among them front-line players in Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and the reborn Dustin Brown. This makes the Kings an extremely difficult opponent for the Golden Knights.
On the contrary, the Golden Knights counter their lack of playoff experience with a wealth of talent. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has 115 post-season games on his resume, as well as three Stanley Cup Championships. If need be, he can carry a series on his shoulders. William Karlsson exploded with 43 goals during the regular season. He will provide a formidable matchup against Doughty in this series.
This series clearly has the potential to go to seven games. The Kings’ defense may be able to at least contain the relentless Golden Knights’ goal-scorers. However, the Golden Knights are a deeper team than the Kings. If Los Angeles is to pull off the upset, they will need to find goals from someone other than Kopitar or Brown. While the Kings have the edge defensively, the offense of the Golden Knights will simply be too much for L.A. to handle in this series. In the final analysis, the series will be decided by the Golden Knights simply outscoring the Kings.
Vegas Golden Knights win the series in six games.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the NFL and NHL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC