Kings VS. Golden Knights
Kings versus Golden Knights sounds like a medieval affair. It will be ceremonial and historic simply with the first puck drop because it’s the first playoff game for Vegas, the first modern-day expansion team to win its division in its inaugural season, against the two-time Stanley Cup champion Kings.
Disparate histories aside, they have similar styles with heavy-forechecking attacks that feed their offense. There’s no better way to build a rivalry than a playoff series, and this should be quite a first-round joust.
Kings offense vs. Knights defense
The Kings shifted to a quicker game in the neutral and offensive zones, and the result was an improvement from 2.43 goals a game last season to 2.89. They’ve averaged nearly 3.10 goals per game since Jeff Carter returned from injury.
The Golden Knights ranked in the top third with 2.74 goals against per game. The defensive responsibility is spread out among half a dozen defensemen, including hard-nosed former Kings defender Brayden McNabb.
Kings defense vs. Knights offense
The Kings claimed the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed and were tied for second in fewest five-on-five goals yielded. They have perhaps the NHL’s best defensive forward in Anze Kopitar, best defender in Drew Doughty and one of the top goalies in Jonathan Quick.
Vegas features one of the best transition games in the league. They have six 20-goal scorers, led by William Karlsson’s 43, although injured David Perron is a question mark. The Golden Knights were fourth in the NHL in five-on-five scoring.
Returning from an injury-shortened season, Quick’s had only one bad stretch in January and he has since been a foundation, with a 2.40 goals-against average and five shutouts in 64 appearances. He remains one of the best clutch goalies around.
Marc-Andre Fleury re-booted his career with Vegas and carries a 2.24 goals-against average and four shutouts into the postseason. He also has three Stanley Cup rings, with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Kings have owned the NHL’s top penalty-killing unit almost all season, helped by shot blocker extraordinaire Alec Martinez and of course Quick. Their power play is led by Kopitar and the puck-deflecting Dustin Brown, who have combined for 16 man-advantage goals.
Vegas’ power play finished 13th and is headed by Erik Haula’s 12 goals. Its penalty killing is 10th. Karlsson has four short-handed goals.
The Kings went 23-15-3 and were among the NHL leaders with 99 goals allowed on home ice. They’ve got the swagger of two Stanley Cups won at Staples Center, which takes on a big-stage feel this time of the season.
Vegas literally pumps it up at home. The sound system at T-Mobile Arena is deafening and contributes to a formidable surrounding that helped the Golden Knights go 29-10-2 at home.