There’s lots of talk of how similar the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings are but Ken Hitchcock notes there are plenty of differences.
Los Angeles is slightly bigger up front and plays a more physical brand of hockey. The Kings are certainly more physical on the back end and it will be interesting to see how successful the Blues are in fighting through it. Going up against Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, and Rob Scuderi will be no day at the beach for St. Louis.
LA probably has a little more skill up front and will try to be more creative than the Blues. St. Louis keeps it simple and likes to get pucks behind the defense and go to work. Overall the Blues are probably a deeper offensive club.
It easy to see the similarities when looking at the statistics as both teams don’t give up a ton defensively. Will that translate into low scoring games throughout the series?
Hitchcock doesn’t think so as rubber legs become a factor the farther you go in the playoffs. The discipline you see in the regular season such as stopping on pucks and skating hard to the bench for line changes tend to happen with less frequency as players get fatigued.
This is why Hitchcock says skill doesn’t come out as much as resolve does in the playoffs.
People look at the 1-0 shootout loss the Blues had in LA on March 22nd as a tight checking affair. In reality both goaltenders were sensational as the game saw 12 odd man rushes during regulation.
The Blues will need to rely on quick puck and body movement to handle the pressure LA likes to bring when killing penalties. Generating more shots to the net will help alleviate the pressure the Blues can expect to face. The Blues will look to make one pass followed by a quick shot as LA closes and fills shooting lanes quickly. There will be limited time and space for cute fancy plays on the PP.
Relying on Four lines…
Ken Hitchcock has said numerous times that using his top six forwards to kill penalties requires the use all four lines. How much ice time his third and fourth line sees depends on the game. He knows he has to use his bench to keep everyone fresh.
I wrote about this yesterday so I won’t go into great detail and repeat myself but the Blues need Backes to play more to his strengths this series. Hitchcock says he’d like to see Backes play more “reckless” than we saw against San Jose. Backes understands it’s about “the team” in the playoffs but he knows we didn’t see his ideal game in the first round. Forcing the opposition to play in their end will go a long way in getting Backes the offensive chances we’re used to seeing.
Look for the Blues to roll four lines in an effort to get Backes, Oshie, and Perron a more favorable matchup.
Kings captain Dustin Brown knows Backes from the 2010 Olympics and knows he’s in for a challenge when they do go head to head.
Speaking of Brown…
He says he’ll watch video of Elliott before tonight’s game to learn how Elliott uses his body to find pucks with heavy screens in front. Some goalies (like Cory Schneider) like to look over the top of bodies while others (like Elliott) will crouch down and go underneath. Look for Brown to obviously do his best to keep Elliott from seeing shots from the outside.
There’s been some discussion on whether or not Alex Steen is up to speed after a long layoff with a concussion. If he’s not up to speed he’s pretty close. He led all forwards in ice time in the opening round and showed great chemistry with Andy McDonald. He rang one off the bar in Game 1 against San Jose and just missed on a few tap-ins where Patrik Berglund was able to get his stick there first. A deflection here a there prevented him from getting some secondary assists and he easily could have finished the series with three or four more points. If he gets these points we’re talking about how great Steen was for the Blues. You can’t judge Alex Steen purely off of point production as he brings a ton of value you don’t always see on the scoresheet.
Polak and Russell...
These two were excellent against San Jose and took on a top four role once occupied by Barret Jackman and Kevin Shattenkirk. It will interesting to see how heavy Hitchcock and Brad Shaw rely on these two in this series.
Polak plays a hard game and provided the Blues wih the type of physical presence you need in the playoffs. They can also handle speed which gives them an advantage.
Friendships out the window….
There are some friendships that will be put on hold until after this series is over.
Kevin Shattenkirk trains with Jonathan Quick in the summer.
David Perron played junior hockey with Kings backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier and the two are very good friends. Bernier also played behind Jaroslav Halak his first year with Lewiston in the QMJHL. Halak was 19 and Bernier was just 16 at the time.
Chris Stewart knows Drew Doughty pretty well as Doughty used to be roommates with Wayne Simmonds who now plays with Philly. Stewart and Simmonds are best friends.
More to come,
The Latest Truth
Post about tonight's Blues-Kings game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Blues Look to Rebound in LA
Post about this afternoon's Blues-Sharks game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Blues-Avs game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Wild/Blues game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Much like the preview leading up to the NHL regular season, TrueHockey.com will examine how each division is shaping up a fourth of the way through the season.
Up next is the NHL's Metropolitan Division Read more