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After struggling out of the gate, the San Jose Sharks captured their fourth straight division title and look to improve upon last year's Western Conference final appearance.
Antti Niemi was selected as team MVP, and you can't find much fault in his selection, having posted a 25-4-4 record since Jan 15th.
Patrick Marleau has rebounded from an early season funk and has been clutch in several situations late this year. Joe Thornton is committed to the system of play that head coach Todd McLellan has implemented, and it’s paying off for San Jose.
What's the difference for the Sharks, the naysayers may ask? Well, it's not the top three for the Sharks; it's the next three that will do you in, with Clowe, Couture and Setoguchi red-hot headed into the playoffs.
The Sharks are enjoying one of their deepest teams ever, with seven skaters netting 20 goals or more. The Mitchell-Pavelski-Wellwood line has been remarkably efficient, combining for 39 points in the last 13 games, not bad for the third line.
One question mark the team must address is its leaky penalty kill unit, currently seventh worst in the NHL and operating at a tepid 79.6 rate.
The Kings, on the other hand, enter the playoffs as banged up as anybody, missing their star Anze Kopitar. The Kings have the size, defense and style of play to go far into the playoffs but without Kopitar, don't possess the firepower to beat the sharks.
Jonathan Quick has been very good this season, but will need to be outstanding against a the depth of the San Jose Sharks.
Dustin Brown, Ryan Smyth and newly acquired Dustin Penner will need to elevate their games to give San Jose a run for its money. Even with the injuries, it's tough to score against LA, as their 2.39 goals against average can attest to.
Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty are two of the youngest and brightest defenseman the NHL, but can't be on the ice against all of the three dangerous Shark lines.
Prediction: Sharks in Five