In the words of Jarret Stoll‘s nephew: “It could be the lowest-scoring series of all time!”
It’s a quote that’s been used by a number of different reporters and news outlets over the past few days, but that has more to do with its accuracy than with members of the media looking for a cute soundbyte from a player’s relative.It really could be the lowest-scoring series of all time. Currently, that distinction belongs to the 1935 four-game semifinal between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins, where a combined total of 9 goals were scored (thanks to TSN’s Playoff Records page). After Los Angeles won Game 1 by a score of 3-1, it might be a bit of a stretch to think we will see four goals of less in the remainder of the series, but with these two teams one can never be too sure. But stepping back from all the playoff analysis and prognostication, it’s clear that one thing has gotten lost in all the talk of a low-scoring affair between the Blues and Kings:
This is going to be a hell of a series.
Playoff hockey has always been about grinding out low-scoring games, goaltenders battling off pucks into triple-overtime, and unsung heroes scoring unexpected game-winners. After watching the Kings and Blues face off Saturday, it’s clear that this series will be no exception. Game 1 was a battle right to the end, and the most unlikely of heroes in Matt Greene netted the game-winner in a shorthanded situation.
The Kings will have to win three more games in order to advance to the Conference Finals, but Game 1 was a perfect start.
Coming up, the Keys to the Series for the Los Angeles Kings, should they hope to knock off yet another Western Conference juggernaut.
1. The physical team is moving on
In Game 1, the hits were 26 to 24 in favour of the Kings, and for the most part they appeared to be the more physical team; it’s imperative that this trend continues. Playing a physical game is a key component to winning on the road, but it will also be important back in Los Angeles, as the Kings will look to stymie any momentum the Blues try to muster up. Throughout the playoffs, the Kings have succeeded in games where their forecheck was firing on all cylinders, so it will be a point to focus on yet again tonight.
Physical play has also been of importance in getting a number of the Kings’ offensive players going. Both Dustin Brown and Mike Richards have seen more success this post-season when they’ve played a physical game. Look for them to try and establish more of a physical presence tonight in order to be impact-players in Game 2. Richards, in particular, has been quiet since the opening of the first round, and the Kings will need him at his best if they are to move past the Blues.
2. Battle of the Special Teams
The Kings found success on the Penalty Kill again Saturday, as they 3 for 3 and netted a shorthanded marker; but the bigger concern for the Kings right now should be the Powerplay. They went 0 for 5 in Game 1 and at times sapped all of the momentum out of their game. Especially disheartening was the effort the Kings put forth during back-to-back Powerplays that saw the Blues shorthanded for almost 6 consecutive minutes.
While LA saw some positive zone time and lots of good chances, they were unable to bury any of their opportunities. It will be important for the Kings to get the PP going in the next few games, if for no other reason than the negative consequences repeated failures on the Powerplay can – and will – have on the team’s psyche. Players like Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and Anze Kopitar need to step up and convert opportunities with the man-advantage, it will be as key to LA’s success as their remarkable Penalty Kill.
3. Help from Quickie
Los Angeles’ success against the Canucks was in large part due to the play of Jonathan Quick (and if we’re being honest here, he was the key to the Kings even making it into the playoffs). As evidenced by Saturday’s game against the Blues, this round will be no exception. Quick had a number of saves in the first ten minutes of the game, most important of which may have been 3 point-blank saves against Andy McDonald, and kept the Kings in striking distance through St. Louis’ initial offensive surge. The Blues are a team that will come at the Kings in waves offensively, and LA will need strong play from Quick if they are to compete in each game.
Part of St. Louis’ plan seems to be to put lots of traffic in front of Quick and be physical on him when they can. Quick has been known to have a bit of a temper from time to time when he feels that players are getting a little too up close and personal, but he will need to keep his emotions in check throughout this series. There is no doubt that trying to get Quick to lose his focus on the game will be a big part of the Blues’ strategy, and the Kings as a team will need to help out their goaltender by keeping this as clean in front as possible.
With Game 1 already in the books it is clear that this will be a great series to watch. Tune in to Monarchy Hockey throughout the playoffs for more predictions, analysis, and playoff content.