The Los Angeles and Anaheim have never met in the playoffs before, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fierce rivalry between the two — just ask Jarret Stoll.
“The regular season is one thing, but we all know the playoffs are a whole new ballgame when it comes to physicality and how hard you’re going,” the Kings center said, per the L.A. Daily News. “It’s going to be a war and a battle and the travel will be great for both teams and both fan bases.”
Known as the Freeway Face-Off, the Kings-Ducks rivalry reached a fever pitch this season when the two teams played the first-ever outdoor game at Dodger Stadium, which Anaheim won 3-0. The win punctuated what was a successful year for the Ducks in terms of head-to-head matchups; they went 4-0-1 against the Kings and surrendered just five goals over the final four contests.
The playoffs, though, are a different beast.
Both cores have extensive postseason experience — the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in ’07, L.A. in ’12 — and no shortage of star power at their disposal(s). In fact, two of the biggest stars are on a collision course for what many expect to be the marquee matchup of the series: Ryan Getzlaf, named one of the finalists for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, going up against fellow big-bodied center Anze Kopitar, who earned his first-ever Selke nomination as the league’s top defensive forward.
“‘Kopi’ is a great hockey player,” Getzlaf said. “He does things the right way. He is just that guy who does everything so well at both ends of the ice. We’re going to have to pay attention to him and all the little details.”
Another thing worth watching will be the importance of home ice. Since there won’t be any travel issue for either team — L.A. and Anaheim are roughly an hour’s drive apart — it’ll be interesting to see how the respective fanbases drive energy levels. The Ducks were outstanding at the Honda Center during both the regular season and playoffs, but the Kings are equally tough at Staples. Of course, Anaheim does hold home-ice advantage thanks to winning the Pacific Division, meaning they’ll get Game 7 at home should the series go that far.
“It’s exciting for this whole area of L.A,” Stoll said. “Playing a team in the playoffs really helps to build a rivalry. Our rivals have mainly been San Jose and Vancouver (because of recent playoff series) and now it’s going to be Anaheim as well.”