Kings-Blues Preview: "Puck Possession is going to be key"
Since we last tangled with the St. Louis Blues...
IN: Andy Old-as-balls McDonald, Kris Russell, Alex "Weenie" Steen
OUT: Jaroslav Halak, Matt D'Agostini, Chris Porter, Kent Huskins (Blues); Kyle Clifford, One vestigial organ (Kings)
Enemy reading: St. Louis Game Time
St. Louis Blues aren't just the favorites in this series because they're the #2 seed. Over the regular season, they were the top possession team in the NHL.
Heed the words of Darryl Sutter:
It is a puck possession game as much as you can, or a puck protection game as much as you can. And if you don’t play that way, then you play way too much in your own zone.
…If there is a similarity, both teams don’t play much in their own zone. That’s the biggest thing that we tried to adjust when I came here. [Post practice video]
Under their new coach, the Kings turned their game around, rising from the middle of the pack to the top 5 in shot ratio. After the deadline, where Voynov took over for Johnson, they were particularly hot. But the Blues had this style down pat all year -- and they just got two of their top players in terms of Corsi, Steen and McDonald, back in the lineup.
These teams do not play the trap. They are not passive. They get pucks in deep, forecheck, and aggressively pursue the puck. They want shot volume and they want control.
We expect this series to largely play out in battles along the boards, with neither team gaining the upper hand for long. But anything can happen in a short series. Emotion can carry even strong teams away from their gameplan.
Both are big, young, aggressive teams. The survivor is going to head into the Western Conference Finals banged up and bruised.
Things I want to see:
1. A hopefully-healthy Carter and a confident Penner not just having a good game, but a great one. The Blues' second line trampled San Jose. Richards' line will need to be at their best.
2. Kopitar winning the battle of the awesome two way centers against Backes.
3. More shots on the power play. The number they generated last series was pathetic. Want more goals? Stop looking for the perfect play and just get it on net. Simple.
4. Quick and the defense keeping up the good work. The series could come down to razor-thin margins. Fortunately, they're used to that. And finally...
5. More goals for our side! (It doesn't hurt to ask!)
I'm so excited I need to tear around the house while jumping. Maybe also bursting into song.