(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Kings will begin the defense of their
Stanley Cup title on Tuesday, as they visit the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade
Center for Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals.
The Kings enter this postseason as the fifth seed in the West after winning it
all as a No. 8 seed last spring. Although Los Angeles barely qualified for the
playoffs in 2012, it went 16-4 in the postseason in a dominating run to the
franchise's first championship. This spring, the Kings will try to become the
first NHL team to win consecutive championships since Detroit pulled off the
feat in 1997 and '98.
St. Louis, this year's fourth seed in the West, was one of the Kings' victims
in the 2012 playoffs, as L.A. outscored the Blues by a combined 15-6 margin
during a four-game sweep in the conference semifinals. The Blues did little to
erase the memory of that sweep during this season's series, as L.A. doubled up
St. Louis by a 14-7 margin en route to winning all three meetings during the
Although this season the Kings have not quite resembled last year's playoff
juggernaut, all the same pieces that made up the 2012 squad are still in
place, including reigning Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick.
Quick's play in net last spring was a performance for the ages, as he went
16-4 with a 1.41 GAA, .946 save percentage and three shutouts to blaze a path
to the championship. However, regaining that form has been a season-long
struggle for the 27-year-old American, as Quick was outplayed by backup
Jonathan Bernier for most of the lockout-shortened campaign.
Quick wound up with an 18-13-4 record in 37 games this season and recorded a
2.45 GAA and .902 save percentage. Bernier, meanwhile, went 9-3-1 with a 1.88
GAA, but head coach Darryl Sutter is staying with Quick at the start of
Despite Quick's down season, L.A. still managed to play a balanced game in
2013, as the club ranked seventh in team defense (2.38 goals allowed per game)
and 10th in offense with 2.73 goals per contest. The team's offensive numbers
were a big improvement from 2011-12, when L.A. was 29th in the NHL with just
2.29 goals per game.
St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock likely will need a superb performance from
starting goaltender Brian Elliott if the Blues are to turn the tide against
the Kings this spring.
Elliott and Jaroslav Halak combined to form the league's best goaltending
tandem in 2011-12. Halak started last year's playoffs as the No. 1 netminder
before being injured two games into the postseason. This season, a injury to
Halak on April 1 allowed Elliott to grab the reins and all he did was set a
St. Louis team record with 11 April wins.
Elliott went 11-2-0 with a 1.28 goals against average and a .948 save
percentage over his final 13 outings. Even with Halak back healthy, Hitchcock
has placed his faith in Elliott heading into the playoffs.
"He's back playing the way he did all of last year," Hitchcock recently told
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He was very good when Jaro (Halak) got hurt in
the playoffs and then he had the inner-ear infection and didn't really play up
to par until the last game when he was healthy. I just like his frame of mind.
I like his disposition. He's a confident guy right now and we're going to need
The Blues will need Elliott to be at the top of his game, considering the
club struggled to score all season long and finished 17th in the NHL with 2.58
goals per game.
Six players totaled four points for the Kings during the season series with
the Blues and Jeff Carter led the way with three goals and one assist. Alex
Pietrangelo and David Perron each had a goal and two assists for St. Louis,
while rookie Vladimir Tarasenko notched a pair of goals.
Quick went 2-0 with a 1.81 GAA in two games versus the Blues, while neither
St. Louis goaltender fared well in the season series. Elliott was 0-1 with a
4.10 GAA in two appearances against the Kings.
The second game of this series is scheduled for Thursday in St. Louis before
it shifts to L.A. for Games 3 and 4.
The Blues were 15-8-1 as the host during the regular season, while L.A. had a
poor 8-12-4 mark on the road.
The Sports Network