When Dustin Brown rounded the corner underneath the left circle and slid into the near post during the third period of the 2-1 regulation loss to St. Louis in Game 2, he knocked the net off its moorings while displacing Brian Elliott in a collision that left the Blues goaltender punching the ice in apparent pain.
As the crowd watched Elliott attempt to skate off his apparent injury, it chanted his name in unison. “El-li-ott. El-li-ott.”
It was a much different tone than when Kings fans serenaded him by chanting his name at Staples Center during the Western Conference Semifinals one year ago.
This postseason, it’s Elliott’s contributions to St. Louis’ defensive efforts that have made the most noise. Backed by a deep defense that hasn’t allowed a surplus of quality opportunities, Elliott has stopped 76-of-79 shots in the series in producing a rather sharp 0.93 goals against average.
“He obviously is playing extremely solid,” Justin Williams said. “There’s not many holes right now, but we need to find ‘em. They’re there on every goalie, and we need to make our second and third opportunities count.”
The quality of the goaltending on opposite ends of the rink is a major factor in the teams’ penalty killing efforts. The Kings and Blues are a combined 2-for-23 on the power play through the first three games.
Elliott’s second round performance a season ago – he stopped 76-of-89 shots for a .854 save percentage last spring – is a distant thought. Instead, the 28-year-old’s April is a much more revealing background for what the Kings expected in this series. He posted back-to-back-to-back shutouts on April 7, 9 and 11 and limited the opponent to no goals or one goal in 10 of 13 starts ever since he rejoined the team from a conditioning assignment at AHL-Peoria. Prior to the Peoria assignment, he had a 3.65 goals against average and .851 save percentage.
“He’s a good goalie. He makes the first save pretty much every time,” Drew Doughty said. “I think the one area struggles is he lets some rebounds, and I think we haven’t been doing a good enough job of pouncing on those rebounds and putting in the second effort.”
“Goalies are huge in any series. Elliott played great in the first two games – that’s why they won two – and then Quickie was great [Saturday] night, and that’s why we won.”
Williams echoed Doughty’s idea of getting bodies and pucks deeper into St. Louis zone and into prime scoring areas in order to find better success against Elliott.
“Penetrate,” Williams said when asked about what the Kings need to do generate more offense. “We need to penetrate within their box. We need to beat guys to the net. We need to throw more pucks to the net. Sometimes I feel when you’re playing hockey, sometimes the puck that you shoot that you don’t think is going in ends up going in. It’s just getting it there, and we need to do a lot more of that.”