Road found and homeward bound
And they’re rolling.
Amidst their playoff success as a whole, the Kings have found most of it away from home, albeit they’ve only hosted two playoff dates thus far. They’ve stapled themselves as a serious visiting threat – now holding a 5-0 record when playing away from Staples Center. This hasn’t been an easy feat, starting things out in Vancouver’s hosting Rogers Arena, and now in St. Louis.
Coming into this series with the Kings, the St. Louis Blues had lost just seven games in regulation at home all season – that being in 44 games. The Kings have ousted the Blues in two consecutive contests on home ice, and in convincing fashion. Not just that, but they’ve beat the NHL‘s statistically best goaltender in Brian Elliott, in a building he had failed to lose in twice in a row all year long.
Welp, that’s changed.
The Kings beat St. Louis in every facet of the game Monday night, starting things off with a Mike Richards goal just 31 seconds in. That’s an early trend to set, and they certainly didn’t fail to live up to it – tapping home four goals in the first period. It was over, and it only had just begun.
If the Kings are comfortable playing down a goal in front of Jonathan Quick, a four-goal lead just about gives them nine lives.
Most notably, Kings goals came off the sticks of players who sorely needed some postseason production. Three players notched their first goals of the postseason: Justin Williams, Jeff Carter, and Mike Richards. Anze Kopitar pitched in with two goals himself, one of them being the Kings’ 4th shorthanded tally of the postseason – quite possibly the league’s top goal of the year.
Catchin’ ‘em off guard, even the score clock.
- Game 3 Outlook -
I mentioned this during the final week of the regular season when expressing my hopes to wrap up the Western Conference #7 seed, and see the Blues in the first round. St. Louis is an extremely vulnerable club.
Before this season, the Blues had won just a single postseason game since 2004 – appearing in the playoffs just twice in that eight-year span. They’ve got a hungry fanbase and local following, something that can be overwhelming to a club returning to the playoffs after such a long period of time. See: LA Kings – 2010, 2011.
This raises the expectations exponentially, and for a young roster that doesn’t have a ton of postseason experience. The Kings have developed a seasoned group of players, and are running on a third consecutive playoff push – but with eased expectations stemming from their #8 Western Conference seed.
So, the point – the Kings have been able to take the St. Louis Blues away from their game, almost to the point where they look confused as how to skate, yet don’t let them drag down their momentum. The Blues lost it Monday, they lost it on all counts. They tried to counter it with a viciously physical attack, and the Kings countered right back with just that – hitting. This gave St. Louis absolutely no leeway.
So, the move back to Staples Center tomorrow night should have little effect, because the Kings focus is exactly where it should be. That’s hockey – any building, any time.
Home away from home: It won’t be the same routine for the Kings in preparation for Games 3 (Thursday) and 4 (Sunday) at Staples Center. There will be no pre-game skates along the shores of Manhattan Beach at Toyota Sports Center, and players won’t see their own beds on the nights prior to each of the upcoming two home games.
The second-coming of God, head coach Darryl Sutter, is not so much pushing for a road-game mentality, but focus. This keeps the Kings close to Staples Center, and ensures close compatibility and smart choices the nights before puck-drop.
Hello, Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn. Ah, those Russians.
This also gives the Kings the chance to skate on Staples Center ice prior to games, something they never do – the building’s schedule gives them no opportunity. This is huge, especially if St. Louis is stationed at Toyota Sports Center. The ice-sheet at Staples Center has one aspect of consistency – being under the NHL‘s par for quality. With the amount of stress and closure the ice sees here, getting a feel for conditions just hours before puck-drop is an important thing to have. Plus, it keeps the team together throughout the day until the game.
- Simon Gagne skated with the Kings in practice today, unfortunately it’s only a good sign for a player who’s got a career in question with a lengthy string of concussion injuries. Don’t expect Gagne back anytime soon, if at all. However, good for you, Gags.
- Alex Pietrangelo also skated with the Blues today after missing Game 2, and is said to be a ‘game-time’ decision.
- The Kings give me no specific outlook to harp on heading into tomorrow night, they’re as tight and sophisticated as I’ve seen them all season long. It’s clicking on all cylinders.
- Oh, and Vegas now has the Kings with the best odds to take home the Stanley Cup.
- The track the Kings have laid this postseason has train-horn written all over it. Queue it on Figueroa St. tomorrow night.
And this ain’t the imagery coming from the ‘Lou
Order me up some buffalo boo-bird wings while you’re at it, fools
Make sure it’s got Blues cheese dressing on the side.
Don’t mistake it for Brian Elliott, that’s Swiss cheese.