LOS ANGELES – Before the season began members of the 2015-2016 Los Angeles Kings stated that their goal was to win the Stanley Cup.
That goal is still intact, but another preseason goal fell by the way side on Sunday as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Washington Capitals, 2-0, to win their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title.
The Ducks division crown is all the more impressive when you consider their paltry start to the season. Anaheim was at the bottom of the standings for the first month, but has easily been the best team in the NHL over the last 40 games.
Meanwhile, the Kings only have themselves to blame for not earning the franchise's second division title in team history after they allowed three unanswered goals on Saturday night in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
"The frustrating part is that we did not get the job done tonight," Kings assistant captain Anze Kopitar said after the loss to Winnipeg. "We had every opportunity to win the division and the bottom line is we didn't."
Instead of preparing to play the Nashville Predators in the first round, the Kings will host their Northern California rivals, the San Jose Sharks, at Staples Center on Thursday.
The travel time – less than an hour flight -- will be a bonus, but the fact that these two teams know each other inside and out could make for a grueling series.
If the head-to-head matchups between the two teams are any indication of what to expect in a seven-game series, expect the series to go the distance.
San Jose took three-of-five games from the rival Kings this season, but their opening 5-1 loss at Staples Center in the first game of the season appears to be anomaly now, as Los Angeles looked like a different team last August.
The saving grace for the two-time Stanley Cup Champions might be the home-ice advantage in the series, making the winner-take-all Game 7 (if necessary) be at Staples Center.
Both teams missed the playoffs last season, but rebounded nicely from bad seasons this year. The Sharks were up three games to none in the first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs before the Kings ran off four straight victories, eliminating the Sharks at home.
San Jose will look to avenge that heartbreaking series when they take the ice at Staples Center.