Round 2: Blues Vs Los Angeles Kings
So after a VERY long wait watching the Eastern Conference destroy itself, we finally get back to watching the Blues play. The Schedule is lined up for the first 4 games with one game on a Sunday afternoon.
And away we go…..
Fun fact anout the Kings, the took equally as many shots per game as the Blues at 30.6. Does that shock you? It shouldn’t. The Kings have just as many good forwards as the Blues. The big names to watch for are Kopitar, Richards and Carter. You might remember Carter from his very short stint in Columbus.
LA did something that I don’t remember seeing done before during a season. They reunited a pair of former teammates that were rumored to be “issues” in their former locker room and were sent packing after last season. Mike Richards went directly to the Kings and Jeff Carter went to Columbus. Before they were split up, they were one of the better lines that the Flyers had and were big reasons why they won the cup and were rewarded with big contracts.
The point is that neither was playing up to par away from each other but when they were brought back together, their seasons turned around. And so did the Kings.
Carter gave the Kings a shot in the arm that helped them get back into contention. (If you thought the Central division was a mess all season, the Pacific was even worse at the end)
Those are the three big names that almost everyone knows. Do you know about Dustin Brown, and Justin Williams? These guys are just as good skill wise as the top three. One thing that you can’t discount is durability. Kopitar, Brown and Williams were the only 3 players who played in all 82 regular season games.
Brown leads the Kings with 5 points in the playoffs with 4 G and 1 A. The only other King who has more than one goal is Jarred Stoll with 2. Don’t count Williams out just because he doesn’t have a goal yet. He does have 4 helpers and that’s just as good as a goal.
The Kings have only scored 12 goals in the first round, which might sound a little familiar……
The Blues only have two more at 14.
Outside of Berglund and McDonald the Blues’ roster shapes up the same way. Not much production from very many places and that’s what the playoffs are about. Who steps up and who doesn’t. We all knew McDonald could do it, but Berglund has really shown what he’s been expected to be.
Is this Berglund’s break out party? It’s sure looking like it.
The big difference between the squads are the tight forecheck, one of the things that has made the Blues very tough to play against. TheKings play it very well too and we’ve seen how that stacked up in the regular season record.
But the Blues have played it much better over longer periods of time. We’ve seen the Blues dominate and frusterate teams all season where LA has had big ups and downs. Part of that was with the coaching change with the Kings bringing in Darryl Sutter.
I’m not a big fan of +/- stat but I know a lot of people are, but I did find this pretty interesting: The Kings defensemen don’t have a minus player among them and the Blues have three. Shattenkirk (-1) Jackman (-3) Polak (-1)
Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi are the two names you might know. Scuderi is a journeyman who helped the Penguins win the cup a few years back.
Doughty and Pitrangelo were drafted in the same class. Doughty stepped up pretty quickly and we know that Pietrangelo spent some time to get some seasoning in juniors. Doughty is a very good defenseman who will have a very good career in the NHL but the offensive upside that Pietrangelo has just doesn’t compare. Both are number 1′s and we will get to watch these two battle for a long time.
Get familiar with the names Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov. These two were the 6th and 8th highest scorers on the team in the regualar season. Mitchell in his 5 games this post season, picked up where the regular season left off with his 1 G 1 A. Voynov hasn’t registered a point yet but don’t over look him.
If you want to look at experience on the back line you have to give it to the Kings because of Scuderi. Jackman and Polak have the most games back there for the Blues but Scuderi has the ring and the games to back it up. Matt Greene has 35 games and counting as well. The Kings have the experince being in the playoffs the last 3 seasons, where before the 08-09 season you have to go all the way back to 2004 before the lockout when the Note showed any kind of life in the post season. Jackman is the only holdover from that period. Everyone else is green on the backline.
Edge: Even though the Kings have the experience, I still think the Blues’ offensive potiential with the outlet passes that they can make will be the difference. You’ll understand why in a bit.
Brian Elliot vs Johnathan Quick. If that doesn’t give you chills I don’t know what else would. Both of these guys have numbers that makes forwards shudder. Theyre both nothing but giant boulders in the crease who don’t give you much daylight to get one past them.
Quick: 5 games played 1.59 GAA with a .953 SV% 172 shots against 8 goals allowed
Elliot: in parts of 4 games played 1.37 GAA .949 SV% 98 shots against 5 goals allowed
Quick might be the best goaltender in the league but because he’s played on a rebuilding Kings squad he doesn’t get the love from the media and league as he rightfully should. I’m not taking anything away from Elliot, Halak or any other netminder but Quick has everything that you could ask for. He’s the one reason why you didn’t wan’t to play the kings. He’s one of the hottest goaltenders coming into the playoffs and he proved he can shut down any offense.
Quick has a few first round series as does Elliot, but here’s the kicker, Elliot will get the starts here at home. Halak could be ready to step back in if needed in LA. But just because Halak is ready to go don’t think that Hitch will make the change. If the Kings somehow find a way to get under Elliot’s skin and if Halak is ready he’ll go in. I think we all know what he did in Montreal.
Neither team is likely to score a ton of goals just based on past production, that much is obvious, but how much does the time off hurt these guys? Goalies are creatures of habit. They like to have control of every situation, that’s just wo they are. When you don’t play for long periods your routine changes a bit and your game day routine can be thrown off a bit. Some guys can handle it and others can’t. We’ll see. If tonight’s Phoenix/Predators game is any indication, both Rinne and Smith have had some major brain freezes and been thrown off their game a bit.
Edge: I’m giving it with a one on one to Quick. He’s just one of those guys that can get really hot and can take over and own a series. But if it comes down to a Halak/Elliot vs Quick/Bernier the Kings just can’t match that.
From all reports special teams will be the the key in the series. The Kings ran through a series of nothing but special teasm for an hour today at practice. They obviously feel if it’s that important to practice an hour on it, then they must feel even strength is going to be nothing but frusteration and will have little to show for it.
The Blues went 6 for 18 for 33% on the power play. The Kings went 3 for 26 for 11.5%.
Now it makes sense why the Kings spent an hour on it today.
This is where the Blues defensemen will make their biggest impact. By having Colaiacovo and Pietrangelo out there on the power play it’s like playing five forwards, with two that can skate backwards very well. There aren’t too many teams that can say they have that kind of talent back there. It changes the complexion on a team and how it’s defended. The Kings just don’t have that kind of skill on their blue line.
Edge: Blues. Too many puck moving defensemen to keep pressure in and can clear the zone easily on the PK.
Darryl Sutter’s teams have made it to the playoffs in 11 0f 13 seasons behind the bench. He’s been to one cup final and lost with Calgary. Outside of a Conference final here or a second round there his teams have always come up short. I think he’s a good coach coming from an amazing hockey family but his resume doesn’t stack up to Hitchcock’s.
Hitch has made it to the playoffs in 10 of his 16 seasons. Three of those missed seasons were in Columbus. Where he seperates himself from Sutter is how deep his teams have gone. 3 losses in the Conference finals and a split in the cup finals with his one win in 1998-1999 seasonwith the Dallas Stars.
Edge: We see both teams play a similar style but I’m giving it to Hitch. Sutter is known as a hot head and so was Hitch but I’ve heard too many interviews with him about how he had to change to adapt totoday’s players. I’m not saying the Sutter hasn’t changed, but it’s clear Hitch is a different person and that’s helped him reach the younger guys and get them to buy in.
The numbers show that this is going to be a close series. I wish I could say there’s going to be a lot of 4-3, 3-2 games and we might get one but I think the norm will be 2-1, 1-0. Expect a lot of overtime games.
Blues in 6.