(HockeyStL) -- The Blues returned to work on Monday morning knowing they will be facing Los Angeles Kings squad capable of beating the Blues at their own game.
“They’re obviously a team that plays a very physical brand,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock. “They pushed Vancouver right out of the series; we’re going to have to be able to match that, they’ve got a good goalie; we’re going to have to match that.”
Matching the Kings shouldn’t be a problem, as the Blues and Kings are mirror images of each other, but playing better could be a challenge. The Kings ranked number two in fewest goals allowed on the season allowing only 179 goals against, but the Blues were slightly better allowing just 165 in the regular season.
The goaltending for Los Angeles was stellar as well, as Jonathan Quick was arguably the reason the Kings were able to make the postseason, and advance past the first round. Quick posted a regular season goals against average of 1.95, holding the second place slot in that category, and boasted a save percentage of .929. Yet, Blues goaltender Brian Elliott ousted quick in both categories posting a goals against average of 1.56 and a save percentage of .940. Needless to say, this will be a very defensive series on both sides, and scoring will be at a minimal.
“We like those types of games, those one goal games that are low scoring,” said Blues captain David Backes. “That’s our style, and hopefully we find some ways to solve Jonathan Quick.”
The Blues went 1-2-1 against the Los Angeles Kings this season, averaging less than a goal-per-game against the Kings, and allowing the Kings to score, on average, two goals a game. When facing Jonathan Quick allowing two goals could present you with a problem, and as the Blues’ regular season record against Los Angeles shows, it can be a fatal mistake. But the Blues are not concerned with what happened during the regular season.
“It’s a new season, you’re not looking back to those games, you’re looking forward, what you want to do, and what we thought we were successful in,” said Blues’ goaltender Brian Elliott who will be the starter for at least the first two games of the series.
Not only do the Blues have to focus on defense, they will also need to bring their physical game against a Kings team that recently ended the season for the NHL’s top team: the Vancouver Canucks.
“Obviously when you beat the Presidents’ trophy winner that’s very significant,” said Ken Hitchcock. “To win it in five games gets the whole world’s attention so I think we all know how good they are, how strong of a team they’ve got. Should be two young teams going at it, should be a good series. There are a lot of variables, but when you look at both teams, they are both built for checking, one does it with position and one does it with more physicality, so that will be an interesting challenge. We just have to be on top of our game.”
David Backes was also concerned with the physicality that the Kings bring, and said the Blues will need to remain disciplined.
“We can’t react, we have to initiate, and when they’re making a push and hitting us we have to fight through that and concentrate on what really matters, and that’s winning the game.”
The Blues will not change the lineup from game five, so it will be the same Blues squad for the first game of the new series, but as Hitchcock pointed out, this is a different team from when the Blues played the Kings on March 22.
“We’ve got a team that they have never seen before; they’re going to be curious about that. All four of our lines were different. They have three lines exactly the same; we have all four different from (the last meeting), so I don’t think they really know our hockey club until they play against us.”
A series that focuses on a tight defensively sound game has all the makings of a seven game series. The Blues will have to find a way to beat the Kings’ defense, and their goaltender Jonathan Quick early and often. It is vital for the Blues to come out checking, and mistake-free, or they could end up taking the same downhill spiral as the Vancouver Canucks