Anyway, being a Sharks fan and having watched every Kings game since... late December or so, now that the series is over I could probably talk about it until I vomit (which I just might given how nauseous I get when I'm sleep-deprived).
As a kind of gross generalization, Sharks and Kings fans are generally pretty chill and knowledgeable. They are also united in their revulsion of Ducks fans (most of whom didn't exist before the season they won the Cup) who come across as slobbering idiots whose knowledge of hockey can be summed up as "that wasn't an elbowing penalty we're getting screwed"!.
This Twitter exchange between the Sharks and Kings mascots (seriously) exemplifies this:
BaileyLAKings: @sjsharkie good luck buddy..... If I can't have a cup I hope you do
BaileyLAKings: RT @sjsharkie: All class, unlike wildwing RT @BaileyLAKings: @sjsharkie good luck buddy..... If I can't have a cup I hope you do
BaileyLAKings: @sjsharkie I am an animal of my word. I hope you display my jersey proudly
From a completely unemotional hockey POV, the Kings were the match up I wanted going into the playoffs. They had lost Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar towards the end of the season and their forwards were already unimpressive offensively.
I also knew that the Sharks have problems with game-stealing goalies like Quick as well as defensemen who can get their shots through from the point (yikes JMFJ and Donuts) but I figured that if they could sustain the same level of play they had in the regular season, they'd be able to overcome those things.
I wasn't expecting them to play like shit for 2.5 games to start the series. I don't know what it was, underestimating the Anze-less Kings or just like... general playoff anxiety (seriously guys, you have been through this so many times), but they were terrible, even in Game 1. That sustained forecheck thing they were doing in the regular season that you need to do in the playoffs? Completely absent. It was only when they went down 4-0 in Game 3 that they started to relax and do that stuff (although a surprising number of goals were scored from cross-ice passes -> one-timers).
But you know, that's why you hope to get a good match up. So you can play like shit and get away with it, and then hopefully pull it together for the next series. I've seen it happen so many times with other teams. The Sharks have just tended to start off with the much tougher than their seed opponents and don't get those "mulligans", as McLellan referred to Game 3. The Preds were easy opponents but they would always blatantly cripple some of our boys so we'd never make it past the second round anyway.
(I've already ranted to abby20 about this, but HOW DO THE DUCKS LOSE TO THE FUCKING PREDS??? We give up a hat trick to Corey Perry so he can hit 50 goals and win the Rocket Richard and this is how they pay me back??? Why could they not at least do one good thing?)
The thing is, if the Sharks play next round the way they did in this round, they will lose. That's not even a question. Do they have the ability to be one of those "good teams" who will get it together and improve? I hope so.
I'm pretty amazed that the Sharks won 3 playoff games on the road, but that was true to the nature of both teams from the second half of the season. They were both in pretty bad positions and then went on really long road trips that saved their seasons. Not that they were awful at home, but they were better on the road.
There were some things I really loved about last night's game. They came out great but didn't press TOO much, and they kept going with it. Even after the Kings kept tying the game they kept pretty calm. But these things stood out:
- Niemi. I thought he looked uncomfortable through the first couple of periods, but he was great at the end of regulation when the Sharks were killing off the 5-minute major. On that one goal mouth scramble Donuts thought he'd scored a goal, even. He didn't. I wasn't really worried about him (because he's a Finnish robot) but it was nice for him to redeem himself after Game 5.
- The PK. We'd already given up 2 PP goals in the game. 5-minute major at the end of the game means we're doomed, right? I know that teams do tend to not be as urgent when they know they have a longer penalty, usually double minors, which can make them less effective and I think that happened with the Kings. It also helped that the penalty was split between the 3rd period and overtime. But still, if this was the Sharks of past years, they would have given up that PP goal in regulation.
- Joe Thornton. I don't think of him as the captain of the team and probably never will, but I kind of love that he was the one to score the series-winning goal in overtime. He was also on the ice for the other two overtime games, playing a key role in those goals. It's funny, a lot of people like him but denigrate his abilities as a hockey player whereas I think he's a great hockey player but don't really like him. :P
I have the feeling the Kings weren't all that good in overtime because during the regular season, all they had to do was stick it out through 5 minutes of OT and then Quick would win it in the SO. And it's not like they don't know that's not how OT works in the playoffs, but there's something about being conditioned to things being a certain way.
I love the point distribution among all the Sharks. Ian White and Wellwood have contributed consistently and how fucking good is Demers? *cries* And there's Clowe, basically validating my decision to get his jersey. Pavelski and Logan have been amazing in that Buster Posey kind of way... even Heatley was useful. Except for the part where he was the first post-game interview. *weeps*
And on the Kings side, I... well now that the series is over I can talk about this openly. :P I squeed madly about all the love between Donuts and JMFJ, especially in Game 2!!! They're not actually a D pairing, so evidence of their love is usually hard to come by. And there was so much of it!
At the end of the series, JMFJ was tied for #1 in series points (5) for the Kings with 3 other people. That really surprised me. And apparently Donuts got 4 points in Game 2 and none in the other games! JMFJ has 12 points in 12 playoff games. A defenseman with 1 PPG in the playoffs is not bad at all! I'm (mostly) proud of how well he played and I still covet him for my team. :P
I think aside from Game 2, we did a pretty good job of handling Donuts. People say he's going to be the captain of the Kings one day, and I just don't really see it. I don't think that you necessarily need to make your best player the captain if it's not a good fit for their personality. Donuts still has a little too much bitchiness. He seems to learn from his mistakes and is still learning/developing, but I just don't think it's the right role for him.
I could keep going, but I think I've been writing this on and off all day, LOL. In summary, go Sharks!