April 28, 2012
Goals aren't the goal for Blues, Kings
By Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency
ST. LOUIS - If you crave high-scoring hockey, this is the series for you -- because the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings will wean you of that dead-end addiction in about 60 punishing minutes.
If all goes according to plan, and with coaches Ken Hitchcock and Darryl Sutter in charge, there's no mistaking what those plans are: Goals will be harder to come by than golden tickets to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
"As a player you don't really care what the score is as long as you're on top," L.A. captain Dustin Brown said after the Kings' final practice before the series opens Saturday night in St. Louis. "But we're not going to win or lose a game 6-5, it's pretty safe to say."
This will be nothing like the 8-5 road hockey games between Philly and Pittsburgh.
Heck, they could play this series twice and there might not be 13 goals total.
The Kings and Blues met four times during the season, with three games ending in shutouts, two of them 1-0. Their most recent meeting, March 22, it was 0-0 through 65 minutes.
L.A. hasn't scored against St. Louis in 130 minutes 49 seconds. The Blues haven't scored against the Kings in 96:22.
Experts on Twitter are predicting St. Louis will win the opening game 0 to -1.
"That's pretty creative," Blues captain David Backes told reporters this week. "We like those types of games, that's our style. (But) we've got to be prepared. (The Kings) took out the No. 1 seed (Vancouver) and they've definitely got the firepower to keep on trucking in this thing."
While the Blues and Kings don't like to be scored on, don't mistake them for being passive. They are big, mean, tough physical dudes who like to get the puck deep, pound their opponents on the forecheck and grind out cycles all game long.
While there weren't a lot of goals in their four meetings, there were an astonishing 231 hits.
"L.A. plays nasty ... they play real nasty," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who could just as easily be describing his own team. "To a man, they play with an edge. They follow the coach's orders and they finish all their checks. They don't swing away on anything. They play with a level of commitment to physical play that's going to be a challenge for any team."
It might come down to something as simple as who wants it more.
"I think the more physical team is going to win," Blues forward T.J. Oshie said. "Whoever plays the most physical the longest is going to get the job done."
That's the way the Kings see it, too. When you have two big, tough teams that play the same style, it comes down to a battle of heart and will.
"I think we're very similar," Kings defenceman Drew Doughty said. "We're both really good defensively with great goaltending. It's going to be close, it's going to be a hard-fought, tight-checking series."
One in which nobody will be apologizing for the way they play.
Would it be more exciting if Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit and San Jose were shooting it out in the Western Conference final four? Many would argue yes.
But looking at who advanced and who didn't, it gives you some idea of what's working and what isn't in the West.
"We know our system and how we have success and I'm sure they're saying the same thing about their system," L.A.'s Mike Richards said. "We're a simple team and they play a simple game, too. It's going to be tight defence -- and the opportunities and chances that we're going to get we're going to have to earn."