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Pearn: No favorite in Ducks-Kings Game 7

by Corey Masisak

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Perry Pearn to break down the action. Pearn will be checking in throughout the series.

Pearn has spent the past 18 seasons as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and a second tenure with the Jets in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings have played to a draw through six games of their Western Conference Second Round series. Each team has won three games. Each team has scored 13 goals.

Los Angeles has had more shot attempts in the series, but Anaheim has had more scoring chances in several of the games. Trying to find something that might separate the teams Friday in Game 7 at Honda Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS) isn't easy.

"In Game 7s, I think there is always more pressure on the favorites.," longtime NHL assistant coach Perry Pearn said. "How does the favorite deal with the pressure? But for this game, I'm not sure who the favorite is. Anaheim certainly had more points [in the regular season], but L.A. has been farther down the playoff road the last two years. The Kings are kind of built as a playoff team for this day and age. There's a lot of young kids on the Anaheim team that are kind of cutting their teeth going through the playoffs.

"That's an interesting dynamic. Like, who is really the favorite in this game? I think it is the team that can go out there and relax and just let it happen that has a huge advantage. That's always the key to great athletic performances to me. You can't play uptight. One of the things I thought I saw [Wednesday] night in the Boston-Montreal game was I thought the Bruins looked tight, especially after Montreal scored the first goal."

There is an interesting contrast between the goaltenders. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has a Conn Smythe Trophy and was the starter for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The Ducks will counter with 20-year-old rookie John Gibson, who has played in three regular-season games and three in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his NHL career. Gibson's resume below the NHL level is extraordinary, and this will be chance to start building one in the League.

"I think the really, really interesting thing to watch is going to be the goalie matchup," Pearn said. "Jonathan Quick has the experience, and I don't think there is any question that one day John Gibson is going to be a really good goalie. One of the guys I thought of after what happened last night was Carey Price. I think early on his days in Montreal they played fairly well in the playoffs, but I don't think his performance, even if he played well at times, didn't match what he's able to accomplish now as a more mature goalie with the experience he has. The same thing might be said about Gibson with hindsight.

"I see that as one of the huge keys to the game. Will Gibson be able to do what he needs to do, or will the edge go to Quick because of his experience and his talent?"

As Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said earlier in this series, the Kings have "championship blood." That's going to be one of the challenges for Anaheim in Game 7, when the Ducks try to become the second team to knock out the Kings in nine tries since Darryl Sutter became coach during the 2011-12 season.

"There's a belief that comes with winning. That's the big advantage in the NHL for teams that have won is that you carry that swagger with you," Pearn said. "Over the years that's why at trade deadlines guys that have been there and done it are so important and teams want to pick up those people. Teams want that experience. I don't think it means you can't win without it. It certainly lends itself to being confident in this type of situations you're going to get into in a Game 7.

"I thought [Game 6] was maybe the most typical playoff game of the whole series. I thought it was really tight. I don't think you could say either team played poorly. I thought it was just a pretty good battle. I just thought the real winner was the National Hockey League because we all get another Game 7."

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