THE SANTA CLARA
April 17, 2014
The San Jose Sharks and LA Kings will drop the puck in Game 1 of a first round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A great sports rivalry develops when two excellent teams meet often, play well against each other and make each game absolutely nerve-wracking for fans of both sides. By those criteria, the Sharks and Kings have been building an intense rivalry over the past decade.
Since the 2004-2005 lockout, both squads have acquired key players and solid coaching staffs to become among the top teams in the NHL.
And when the squads meet to play each other, it is an event unto itself.
In the past five years, the Sharks and Kings have met 28 times in the regular season. A single goal has determined the winner in 16 of those games. Over the same span, the home team has won 18 times. This has extended to the playoffs, where each team owns one series win.
This season has a particular edge to it. The Kings eliminated the Sharks in seven games last year. Both teams have underperformed somewhat during the season, whether due to injuries in the case of the Sharks or a lack of offense plaguing the Kings. Only now are both teams playing up to their potential.
Moreover, coming into the new season, San Jose was captivated by the fantastic start of rookie Tomas Hertl. That is, until the captain of the Kings, Dustin Brown, shattered Hertl’s knee during a December collision most everyone outside Los Angeles acknowledges as malicious.
In terms of who will win the series, it is — of course — a toss-up. The Kings lead the season series, but the Sharks have home-ice advantage. This allows San Jose to put its line out second, creating strategically favorable matchups. It may just come down to which team’s goaltender steps up.
Northern and Southern California are fiercely competitive. In one respect, the Sharks-Kings series is just another chapter in a larger geographic contest. But to fans of each team, it is intensely personal. The fact that Hertl has returned to the lineup just in time to exact revenge adds to the rivalry narrative in a big way. Sharks fans such as myself have not forgotten what happened, and knocking our rival out of the playoffs is the perfect karmic compensation.
There is a line in the Game of Thrones series, one that embodies all of the passion and desire for ultimate victory that Sharks fans crave. Since we too are about to clash with kings, I figure it’s appropriate.
So look out, Los Angeles. “The North remembers.”
Jonathan Tomczak is a senior political science and history double major and editor of the Opinion section.