Remember two years ago when the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens beat the heavily favored Capitals and Penguins in the first two rounds? I think that this year’s Habs are the Los Angeles Kings. They played that defensive style just well enough to beat some of those offensive first teams. The Kings sit back and clog everything up. They score when you mess up.
The St. Louis Blues know all about defense. The led the league in goals against in the regular season (LA was second). Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak combined for 15 shutouts. That’s 1 in every 5 or 6 games. That’s insane.
Both the Kings and Blues gave up 1.80 goals per game in the opening round. So yeah, it’s likely going to be a low scoring series. Whether it’s Elliott or Halak in net, the Blues have excellent goaltending. Jonathan Quick is an outstanding goalie as well. We’ll likely see NHLNetwork’s Top 10 Saves show be dominated by Elliott and Quick. Both teams have strong young defenses with some solid veterans mixed in.
Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov are the future of the Kings, but you can’t say enough about what elder statesman Willie Mitchell has done for this team. Rob Scuderi is a steady veteran. The Blues have a pretty solid and well balanced offensive attack, so it will be interesting to see if Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will be able to isolate Matt Greene and Alec Martinez and take advantage of them. Blues’ Andy McDonald and his 8 points aren’t really showing many ill effects from his injury, and along with Patrick Berglund, has accounted for half of the Blues first round goals. McDonald and Berglund’s line is likely to attract the attention of Doughty and Mitchell, which could leave an opening for Perron – Backes – Oshie line, which just oozes potential. They combined for just two goals last round, but I expect that to change.
On the offensive side, Dustin Brown is really showing why he was picked to be the captain of the team with his 4 goals which includes two shorties. Anze Kopitar is a stud and would be a superstar if he played in a market that gets more attention. Don’t forget, the Kings also have Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to round out their top heavy talent. And while these guys can score with the best of them, what makes them especially valuable is that they can all play very solid defense. So given that they’re given heavy defensive responsibilities much of the time, they won’t produce the offense players with that kind of offensive talent would be expected. That said, defense can turn to offense on a dime. The Blues are going to have to be on their toes and not do anything too risky when these guys are on the ice.
Watch out for Jarret Stoll of LA. He’s a good player and may get lost in shuffle with the attention that the top 6 forwards will be getting. Secret weapon for the Kings? The Canucks might say yes after watching him score 2 game winning goals against them. I’m interested to see David Backes in this series and I’m also interested to see who the Kings match up against him. He’s big and nasty and could be a huge thorn in the side of LA in the offensive zone.
The Kings are a lot like the Capitals in that they were successful because they knocked their first round opponent by preventing them from playing their game. And again like the Capitals, the Kings are going to have to beat their opponent by playing the Blue’s own game. First goals will be important, and I’d hate to be the team trailing after two periods.
My prediction: I’m going to say that the Blues win in 6. The Blues are a more complete team and don’t have to rely on only stellar defense and goaltending to win…even though they have both.