Defying all the critics, the Kings downed the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks in just 5 games. Now they move on to the second best team in the West, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues also had a mid-season coaching change that turned them in the right direction. Ken Hitchcock turned the Blues into a defensive stalwart. They managed to beat out old favorite Detroit, recent Cup winner Chicago, and new powerhouse Nashville in order to win the division. Of course, they did have 6 games against stepping stool Columbus but I digress.
St. Louis is good. Really good. ‘Tied for 2nd best record in the league’ good. ‘Least goals allowed in the league’ good. ‘Second best home record in the league’ good. I could go on in this manner but I’ll just make some bullet points instead. Bullet points are more fun.
-St. Louis starter Jaroslav Halak went down to injury in the 1st round and was replaced by back up Brian Elliott… who didn’t lose a game and has better numbers than Halak. Both St. Louis netminders had over 20 wins this season. They had a combined 15 shutouts this season. Quick’s 10 shutouts just edged Elliot’s 9. Long story short: the Kings goal-scoring isn’t going to come any easier.
-The Kings beat the Blues in their season series, 3-1. The Kings’ most emphatic win, a 5-0 drubbing, came pre-Hitchcock.
-You’ll hear a lot of comparisons between competitors during the playoffs but comparisons directed at these two teams are accurate. Good defense, good goaltending, low scoring, physical hockey. Both teams are young and talented. Etc.
-Former Duck (booooo) Andy McDonald was their best forward during the first round. However, Backes is their physical power-forward, Oshie is very talented, as are Perron and Berglund. They have some offensive chops up front. Arnott provides that veteran presence. Pietrangelo and Colaiacovo are their Doughty and Voynov from the blueline.
Okay, bullet pause. I’m just comparing now, which is what I feel like I’ll end up doing for the rest of this thing, so I’m going to break it down into key points that will affect the series:
1) Special teams - Both teams were comparable during the regular season BUT the Blues powerplay has found its flow in the playoffs. The Kings need to do that too.
2) Home/Road - The Blues have home-ice advantage, but the Kings have been deadly on the road in the playoffs. Could this be because of Sutter’s feelings on…
3) Match ups - Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t give a flying fudge about match ups, which gave the ‘Nucks problems. Will it give the Blues the same problem or will their similarities in depth cancel out that advantage?
4) Rust - Obsolete at this point. The East took so long to get to round 2 that all 4 Western teams had plenty of rest.
5) Discipline - The Kings took some bad penalties in the last series. Their PK is good but it’s better to not give the Blues those chances.
6) Physicality - The Kings have more heavy hitters than St. Louis. Can they bully the Blues around the ice? Can they neutralize the skill of Oshie, Perron, and McDonald, exposing their fragility?
Okay, so those are the key points in my opinion. Don’t ask me why one of the key points is obsolete, it just is. Okay, now some random thoughts:
-It would be great is Jeff Carter is operating at full speed in round 2. Hopefully his ankle is healed and he can turn into a goal scoring force. He got a lot of playing time, however, he can make his minutes deadlier with improved play.
-Can Doughty turn on the skill and make the Kings’ PP deadly? He has it in him to create space and find lanes. It comes down to making smart decisions…
-Does Brown stay hot? Does Quick stay hot?
-Does Kopitar go from good to great?
-Can the 4th line gobble up important minutes and be a thorn in the Blues’ side?
I guess we’ll see, but I like the Kings’ chances. My Prediction: I’d say Kings in 7. 7 goals scored total in this series. 4 shutouts. EA’s computer melts trying to simulate this series.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney