The Kings know they will face St. Louis in the second round. They just don’t know when. The NHL apparently won’t release the second-round schedule until the first round is complete, at least in the Western Conference, where only the Chicago-Phoenix first-round series remains (Game 6 is tonight). The Kings believe they are headed for a Saturday Game 1 in St. Louis, but it could be Friday as well. Regardless, the Kings know they face a challenge. Later, we’ll take a more-specific look at the Kings-Blues series from this season, but in general, the Blues have been strong. As the second seed in the West, they eliminated San Jose in five games in the first round and they finished the regular season with the fewest goals allowed (165) and the second-most home wins (30).
Not surprisingly, while Darryl Sutter expressed satisfaction with the Kings’ first-round win over Vancouver, and touted its importance to the Kings’ young players and the fans, Sutter quickly turned his eyes to St. Louis. Today, Sutter told reporters, “I’m getting ready for the next one. I moved on from that one in a hurry. About five minutes after, as soon as we knew who we were playing. … You don’t forget about (beating Vancouver), but the only thing that you have to be careful of, with winning, is not to forget how you win.” Sutter and Jarret Stoll today gave their thoughts on facing St. Louis, with Sutter starting by comparing the challenges brought by the Blues, compared to the challenges the Kings faced against the Canucks…
SUTTER: “I think that our goaltender was excellent (against Vancouver). I think that our defense, our defensemen, are going to have to play a lot better than they did in that series. … From a compete standpoint, if you want to be in a series against the St. Louis Blues, you better have boys who are willing to come out of it with a little bit of black and blue on them. … This series won’t be any different than any other one. Goaltenders, special teams, top players, unsung heroes and discipline. Write that down and don’t forget it. … It’s part of the hockey Bible and I’ve seen it for 35 years, live.”
And here are Stoll’s thoughts on facing St. Louis…
STOLL: “I think they’re a heavy team. They play a heavy game, a physical game. Definitely their top three centermen are all big, strong guys who can skate. They’ve got some speed on the wings, for sure, and their defense and goaltending, they don’t give up much obviously. Them and us were the top two defensive teams in the league, I believe. It’s going to be a war. it’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be, definitely, some tight games out there. We’ve played them well. They have a great home record. We play well on the road. Hopefully we can come out and have a good start to this series. They’re a good team. They block a lot of shots. We’re going to have to figure out that, make sure we’re not getting too many shots blocked, and find a way to get to Elliott. He’s had a great year. Both of their goaltenders have had great years, so it’s definitely a challenge.”
Question: So we shouldn’t expect games like in the Pittsburgh-Philly series?
STOLL: “[laughs] My nephew is staying with me right now — my mom and my nephew are here — and he was saying, `This might be the lowest-scoring series of all time,’ he tells me. Hopefully we’re on the better end of those scores.”