St. Louis Blues vs Los Angeles Kings First Round Preview
The defending Stanley Cup Champions begin their defence of their title against a St. Louis Blues team that they swept in the second round last year.
Let’s break this series down:
Overall Talent -The Blues have talent but not a lot of high-end, elite players other than Alex Pietrangelo. Their true strength is the ability to roll four lines and having offensive talent in their bottom six. Their defencemen are a good mix of puck-movers and stay-at-home guys. The key matchup will be how Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold hold up to a relentless Los Angeles forecheck. If they can escape their zone relatively unscathed then they have a real shot to win this series. The Kings have the best players in this series in high-end players like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Their success will depend on their defence after Doughty.
Goaltending – The Blues have had a three-headed goalie monster of Brian Elliot, Jaroslav Halak and Jake Allen. Los Angeles has the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick in net. I will always take the true, #1 goalie over the hope that one of a pair or threesome play at a high level.
Edge – Los Angeles
Coaching – Both Darryl Sutter and Ken Hitchcock have won Stanley Cups but Sutter has more recent playoff success. I think the two coaches’ strengths are in how they get players to buy in to their systems. I can’t see one bench having the advantage over the other.
Edge – Even
Specialty Teams – The Kings finished 10th in the league on the power play while the Blues finished 12th so the team that gets the most bounces will have the better power play. St. Louis’ penalty kill unit was better than the Kings but they both finished in the top 10.
Edge – Even
This has the potential to be the best series of the first round. The series will depend on how each blue line reacts to the forecheck and if one of the Blues’ goalies can match Quick save for save. I’m leaning towards the Kings here because of last year’s sweep and the fact that Los Angeles has much more playoff experience than the Blues. I predict the Kings to win in 7.