Welcome to Center Ice Chat’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview and Predictions series. With Round 1 in the books as of Thursday night, we take a look at the crop of the few, the proud, the Conference semifinalists.
The Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues have begun the Mirror Series, and there’s no telling who will come out on top, in part, because, there’s no greater distinction between the two.
Andy McDonald is shown here challenging Jonathan Quick. The Blues/Kings series will be just that if Los Angeles can fix a few minor problems.
Despite last night’s King’s 3-1 win — with a Dustin Penner empty netter, don’t be swayed into thinking Los Angeles has this series under wraps.
The two teams are similar, first off, in coaching style. It’s known that Ken Hitchcock of the Blues and Darryl Sutter of the Kings are not player’s coach. They’re very tactile in more traditional coaching, and both possess the mindset of defense first.
Here’s why the Blues have the edge:
- Forecheck: Hitchcock said before the series his team doesn’t get enough credit with the forecheck. His top line has been able to make an impact in the possession category, as the Blues ranked No. 1 overall. (The Kings ranked a close fourth.
- Shots against in the playoffs: The Blues rank better substantially against the Kings in this category. The Blues: 4th of 16 with 28.8; Kings: 15th of 16 with 33.5.
- Powerplay: The Blues are 4th of 16 in the playoffs at 28.6 success rate; Kings are 14th of 16 with a mere 9.7 success rate.
- Penalty kill: Probably the more important of the two special teams, the Blues rank 3rd of 16 in the playoffs with a 90.9 success rate; Kings are 6th of 16 with an 87.5 success rate. It’s not as substantial, but, still, the Blues have an edge.
And, alas, here’s what the Kings have going for themselves:
- It’s nothing substantial, but the phenomenal talent of goalies needs to be addressed. And the Kings barely, just barely, have the better man in the crease within the playoffs. Jonathan Quick has a GAA of 1.49 and save percentage of .955. Meanwhile, Brian Elliott has a GAA of 1.51 and save percentage of .944 (hardly anything to sneeze about).
- Chances: It’s all about materializing those chances. And although Anze Kopitar hasn’t been able to convert much, he’s among the playoffs leaders in shots. He has 20 so far, good enough for the eighth spot. But, he has only one goal and three assists. We’ll see if he can break out of his slump and bolster his numbers.
Aside from the previous, the Kings really have a lot to work on. Down the line on the stats sheets, the Blues have an advantage mores than the Kings. Looking at players with most goals (Andy McDonald 4G) and assists (Mcdonald, Berglund 4A each), and defenders with points (Alex Pietrangelo, 4), the Blues have outdone the Kings. Sure, it’s basic numbers, but there’s not a lot of hope if the likes of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter can’t manufacture like they should have while in Philadelphia.
Final prediction: Blues in 6 games
With the Kings grabbing Game 1 in St. Louis, expect Ken Hitchcock to really clamp down on the imperfections that bled through, and close the gate on an overzealous Kings in Game 2 on Monday. Thereafter, expect the Kings to win once in Los Angeles, while the Blues close it back in L.A. for the one-game stand.
Matthew Wilson is editor of Center Ice Chat. Follow him on Twitter @Mattjw24. Be sure to also Like us on Facebook and to Follow our Tumblr page. If you'd like to contribute, or appear as a guest columnist, please email us at CenterIceChat@gmail.com.