Monday, April 23, 2012

Blues can see mirror image of themselves in Kings

Great goaltending, tight-checking Los Angeles
squad next up after upset of Canucks

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- What do you get when the two stingiest teams in regards to goals allowed meet up in a seven-game playoff series?

The logical answer would be a lot of low-scoring, one-goal games.

But when talking about the Blues and Los Angeles Kings, that logical answer fits the bill.

(Getty Images)
The Blues' Patrik Berglund (middle) hopes to build off the strong series
he had against San Jose and take it to the second round against LA.
Mirror images will meet up in the Western Conference Semifinals when the second-seeded Blues, fresh off a five-game series win over the San Jose Sharks, face the upstart and eighth-seeded 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 22nd, a 1-0 shootout win in which LA's Jonathan Quick outslugged the Blues' Brian Elliott in that encounter.

"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, 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 similiar 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 joked. "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 likes 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.

"A lot of guys would like to know what the schedule is. There's an uneasyness of not knowing if it's Thursday, if it's Friday-Saturday or whatever it's going to be. Just have that schedule so you can put preparation in line and as a timeline, it would be nice to have. The guys in here are anxious, they're excited. There's lots of energy here today after a day off."
(Getty Images)
B.J. Crombeen (left) and Jamie Langenbrunner (right) hope to have an
impact in the second round against LA like they did against San Jose.

Hitchcock announced that goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower-body) will not be available for the first two games of the upcoming series. Halak, who was injured in Game 2 against the Sharks when teammate Barret Jackman accidentally crashed into him breaking up a passing play. He has been shelved since.

"Jaro's not going to be around for the first two games and we'll see from there," Hitchcock said. When asked if there was a setback, the coach simply said, "Nope."

Hitchcock was more focused on what he's looking for from the Kings.

"LA 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.

"We played them in Game 75 and it was a great game. They were on top of their game at that time, really playing well. We know what they're like. Obviously when you beat the Presidents' Trophy winner, that's very significant. To win it in five games gets the whole world's attention. I think we all know how good they are and how strong of a team they've got. It should be two young teams going at it, it should be a good series."

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