Consider the first-round date with Vancouver an abyss, all it did was get the Kings here. But you can still watch replays of Jarret Stoll‘s goal. When I’m looking at you, I’m watching Stoll’s goal…in my mind. And then again on YouTube later probably.
This one is calling to be lengthy and close. It’s got low-scoring, one-goal games written all over it. What else would you want playoff hockey to be, Flyers-Penguins? Trash.
Things don’t get much easier for the Kings heading to the 2nd round, finding themselves in the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2001.
It’s the St. Louis Blues, who reeled off a season hockey fans can only fathom for, notching 109 points to tie the New York Rangers as the NHL‘s second best club. Of course, the only team that fared better than those two this year was the Vancouver Canucks. Welp, they’re done. Where’s the hand sanitizer at?
Take a Knee
- Season Series -
For as successful the St. Louis Blues were this year, they had some trouble in dealing with the Kings. The Kings notched W’s in three of the four contests played against the Blues. With the exception of one game, all between the two clubs were decided by one goal – that’s close hockey. I expect that to be the trend in this series, you can throw their seedings out the door right now. #2 vs #7 means absolutely nothing.
October 18, 2011 – Los Angeles, CA
St. Louis Blues (0) @ LA Kings (5)
Quick Notes: This would be the Kings “official” home opener, after playing their first two “home” contests in Sweden and Germany. It doesn’t get much better than this one, folks. Simon Gagne with 2G, 1A, goals from Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, and Justin Williams with 2A. Oh yes, another Jonathan Quick shutout. *Also to note: They wore the new whites at home to try and sell more jerseys.
November 22, 2011 – St. Louis, MO
St. Louis Blues (2) VS LA Kings (3)
Quick Notes: Anze Kopitar would open the scoring for the Kings in this contest, he wouldn’t score a goal for another 17 games thereafter. Willie Mitchell potted the game-winning goal with just over five minutes to play via a long-range rocket from the point. Jonathan Bernier was steady with 23 saves to record one of his five wins of the season. The Kings also donned their alternate purple crown ‘hemlines’ on the road, an extreme rarity.
February 3, 2012 – St. Louis, MO
St. Louis Blues (1) VS LA Kings (0)
Quick Notes: This one was brutal, and it kicked off a five-game span that saw the Kings tally just six goals in total. Jaroslav Halak handled the Kings’ struggling offense quite easily, fending off just 22 shots. Jonathan Quick would make it a game with 32 saves, but another offensive letdown shuns the Vezina Trophy finalist’s performance yet again.
March 22, 2012 – Los Angeles, CA
St. Louis Blues (0) @ LA Kings (1) *Final/Shootout
Quick Notes: The Kings would jump from eighth to third place in the Western Conference behind another dazzling performance from Jonathan Quick. Quick would stone the Blues with a 38-save shutout, his eighth of the season, tying the Kings single-season record. Newcomer Jeff Carter would seal a victory for the Kings, beating Brian Elliott for the game-winner in the shootout.
- Series Outlook -
Even Stevens: This has the makings to be a very lengthy series, a close one at that. Both the Kings and Blues bring superior goaltending, strong and disciplined defense, and the angst to change the pace of a contest with good puck possession. Like I mentioned before, playoff seedings mean nothing in this, and quite frankly, the Kings have shoved their 8-mark to the side.
It’s yet another opponent with two strong goaltenders, the Blues set mighty well in the crease with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. They split time quite evenly, Halak dressing in 46 games (23-10-4) and Elliott 38 games (26-12-7). Their numbers were astounding, in fact Brian Elliott (1.56) posting the only GAA better than Jonathan Quick (1.95). Jaroslav Halak stands right behind the two, posting in at 1.97.
Of course, however, Jonathan Quick has almost played twice as many games as those two.
A bright side here, the Kings can yet again queue some goaltender shuffling with a few good offensive performances early, a twisted change in feel to a series that has the ability to give the Kings a hand. The Kings were able to chase Roberto Luongo out after two games, but Corey Schneider is not to blame.
The factor was Quick, and when he plays up to par, he’s almost impossible to beat – it’s the opposing goaltending that needs to stay at pace at this point. In the final two meetings against the St. Louis Blues this season, Jonathan Quick stopped 67 of 68 shots directed toward his crease. Impeccable.
Depth will be a huge proponent for the Kings again, who saw wonderful play from the back-end forwards in the first round. The Kings’ 4th line with Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan, only got better when Brad Richardson returned. Richardson, who was the Kings’ playoff dark horse last season, is showing signs of more postseason magic.
And you’re going to need this 4th line to play well in both ends again, fill time and space, while continuing to possess the puck like they did against Vancouver. When Darryl Sutter shows the confidence to throw out his 4th-line with under three minutes to play in Game 5, you’ve got some good things going.
- Dustin Penner will continue to play on the 2nd-line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Penner took Dwight King‘s role in Game 5, which I don’t think is an argument you can either bash or behold. Bottom line is, Penner must have good presence to continue to play alongside Richards and Carter, both of which are due for some postseason production.
- The Blues have two top-six forwards that the Kings have seen little, or none of this season. Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen missed a combined 90 games with concussion injuries this season. McDonald was a nuisance in St. Louis’ first round series against the San Jose Sharks – potting eight points (4G, 4A) in five games. The Kings have yet to see McDonald this season. The Kings met up with a healthy Alexander Steen twice, who was able to reel off 28 points (15G, 13A) in 43 games. Steen also chipped in against San Jose, with 1G and 2A in five games.
- Game 4 in LA will see a puck-drop at noon. God help me now, this team doesn’t have a good history with matinees. Channel January 7th.
- Don’t expect any immediate return from Kyle Clifford. Clifford skated in practice today, but in the ‘red-cross’ sweater.
- Just to show you how close this series will be, the Kings averaged 2.29 goals per game this season, the Blues 2.51. Not just that, but these two clubs topped NHL charts for the least goals against. The Blues allowing just 1.89 per game, the Kings 2.07. It’s a tale of who can score two goals each game, seriously.
- Kings in si–no, seven.
“Vancouver will be back in the finals”