Playoff Threeview: St. Louis & Los Angeles
4. Blues 29-17-2 (60 points, 2nd in Central, 2nd in Conference III) vs. 5. Kings (27-16-5, 59 points, 2nd in Pacific)
Season Series— Kings 3-0
Leaders— Blues: Chris Stewart (18G, 18A, 36 Points, 6 PPG), David Backes (22 A), Patrik Bergland (23.0 percent shooting); Kings: Anze Kopitar (10G, 32A, 42 Points), Jeff Carter (26G), Robyn Regher (69 blocked shots)
Probable Goalies: Blues: Brian Elliott (14-8-1, .907, 2.28); Kings: Jonathan Quick (18-13-4, .902, 2.45)
Words & Music
“There’s no easy ice between these two teams, there’s no space.” – St. Louis Coach Ken “Sansabelt” Hitchcock to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.
Ice Cube’s “My Summer Vacation,” the greatest (only?) song ever written about a bunch of guys from LA coming to St. Louis to make trouble (NSFW):
Locks & Keys
Los Angeles handled the Blues this season, but St. Louis has gone 12-3 since the last time these teams played March 28.
What’s guaranteed is a hard-hitting series, but with plenty of skill on both sides, as well. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards combined for five goals against St. Louis this year. Russian rookie phenom Vladimir Tarasenko was the only Blue with more than one score against the Kings.
We never know what the officiating will be like in the playoffs, but if there are power plays to be had, they’ll be had in this series with two teams unafraid to throw the body around. The teams were pretty even in that regard — LA’s power play was good 19.9 percent of the time, St. Louis’ 19.5; on the kill, St. Louis went at 84.7 percent and LA 83.2.
With big-bodied LA and tight-checking St. Louis — the Blues allow the fewest shots on goal in the league — this may come down to goaltending and that means it comes down to one key question for each team (beyond “Will Jay Bouwmeester even know what to do?”).
Do the Blues get gave-up-one-or-fewer-in-nine-of-his-last-11 Brian Elliott or, uh, the other one? Do the Kings get Conn Smythe Jonathan Quick or the less-dominant Quick they’ve seen this season?
Answer: It’s actually the same guy in both cases, it’s just sometimes guys play better than they do at other times because hockey is played by humans and not robots.
Call & Response
Give me the Blues in seven in what might be the best series in the West, if not on both sides of the bracket. When in doubt — and there’s lots to like about both teams — go with the hot-goalie theory. USA Today’s Kevin Allen disagrees. He likes Kings in seven.