Blues Expect Defensive Challenge vs. LA
HAZELWOOD, MO -- What do you get when the two stingiest teams meet up in a seven-game playoff series? The logical answer would be a lot of low-scoring, one-goal games.
Time will tell in the Western Conference Semifinals when the second-seeded St. Louis Blues, fresh off a five-game series win over the San Jose Sharks, face the upstart and eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings, who are coming off a five-game upset of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.
The Blues were 1-2-1 against the Kings this season, with the most recent encounter in Los Angeles on March 22, a 1-0 shootout win in which Jonathan Quick got the better of Brian Elliott.
"It's going to be a real good challenge," Blues winger David Perron said. "We know they're really good defensively and they're a physical team, but we can play with them. The good thing is there's no shootout in the playoffs.
"We've got two real good goalies and they've got Quick, who's real good. They've got [Jonathan] Bernier, who's pretty good, too. I played with him in junior. ... For us, we're going to have to play that same style of hockey that we played in that first series. We'll have success that way."
The Blues bested the No. 7 Sharks with a similar style they'll need against the Kings: the ability to play physical, the ability to win puck battles and the ability to maneuver around an ice surface that won't see much real estate.
"I think when you look at both teams, they're built for checking," Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "One does it with position, one does it with more physicality. That will be an interesting challenge.
"When you beat the Presidents' Trophy winner (like the Kings did), you become the No. 1 seed. I think everybody knows that. We've got to be on top of our game. I think if we're on top of our game, this is going to be a great series and I'm really looking forward to it."
Blues winger T.J. Oshie added: "The areas that are sometimes open against other teams are not going to be open against these guys. They play a tight gap, they play great defensively, and they're pretty similar to us. It's going to be a good battle. I'm not going to say it's going to be a one-goal game every game, but it's definitely going to be a defensive battle, and whoever wants to check longer and stay on the puck longer is going to come out on top."
With the way Elliott and Quick have played, one goal per night might be enough to win.
"I read somewhere on Twitter that someone said the first game is going to be like zero to minus-one or something," Perron said, laughing. "We all expect a real defensive matchup. That's the way it was during the season against each other and it's probably going to be the same thing again."
Blues captain David Backes agreed.
"Watch any of their games against the Canucks. They play hard every shift, they've got four lines that are willing to invest in the game," Backes said of the Kings. "Obviously their goaltending's fantastic as well. ... We like those types of games, those one-goal games that are low-scoring. That's our style. Hopefully we find some ways to solve Jonathan Quick. He's a good goaltender.
"The guys in here are anxious, they're excited. There's lots of energy here today after a day off."
Hitchcock announced that goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower body) will not be available for the first two games of the upcoming series. Halak was injured in Game 2 against the Sharks.
But rather than dwelling on an injury, Hitchcock was more focused on what he's looking for from the Kings.
"L.A. plays nasty. They play real nasty," Hitchcock said. "They, to a man, play with a real edge. They follow the coach's orders, they finish all their checks, they don't swing away on anything. They believe in puck pursuit and angling and determination on the puck. They win the board battles. ... They play with a level of commitment to physical play that's going to be a challenge for any team. We're first up."