The Los Angeles Kings, down 2-0 in their best of seven series a week ago, are now in prime position to close out the St. Louis Blues at the Staples Center on Friday night.
Before the two teams take to the ice, here are three keys for the Kings if they are wanting to finish off St. Louis this evening:
In the first three games of this series, the Kings were wearing down a path to the penalty box. In those contests, they gave the Blues 13 power plays, and while St. Louis was only able to capitalize on one of them, the fact remained that the Kings were ceding control of the tempo of the games to the Blues by constantly allowing them to have an extra skater on the ice, and the 2-1 series gap in favor of St. Louis was evidence that things needed to change.
Things changed indeed in Game 4, as the Kings only surrendered two power plays to the Blues, giving up a goal on one of them. Game 5 was even better, with the Kings playing a relatively clean game in only allowing one power play, which they killed off.
Staying at even strength has been kind to the Kings in this series. They are scoring 1.17 goals for every goal they give up when each side has five players on the ice, and the Blues have been having difficulties in that area, with a 0.86 ratio of goals for/against at even strength.
If the Kings can keep the game at even strength, then they have a great chance to win, pure and simple.
Possession Must be Better
At various points in this series, the Kings have appeared to gain the upper hand on the Blues in terms of possessing the puck, but inevitably the balance shifts the other way, and in a big way at that. In fact, the Blues are averaging over four shots per game more than the Kings in this series, and that is thanks in large part to the fact that they are winning 53.9% of their faceoffs, which trails only Boston and San Jose in terms of effectiveness in the dot.
The Kings do have several guys who are capable of winning draws, with Jarret Stoll, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter all winning better than half of their faceoffs during the regular season. By contrast, the playoffs haven’t been nearly as kind to these three, with none of them winning better than 47.6% of their draws (Stoll), and Kopitar is struggling even worse, with only a 43.4% success rate.
The fact is that the Kings are winning in spite of constantly giving up control of the puck off the draw, and while it may not impact them in this series per se, fans can be sure that it will get the better of the Kings eventually, so work needs to be done to utilize better technique starting Friday.
Quick Must Be Dominant
All series long, the Kings have needed Jonathan Quick to step up his game in a big way to help out his defense, and Friday night will be no exception to this requirement.
The Blues have been playing at a high tempo and getting plenty of opportunities all series long, but when their backs are against the wall in this contest, fans can be sure that St. Louis will pull out all the stops to put pressure on the Kings’ goaltender and defense. This will surely mean more traffic in front of the net and more aggressive play from their blue liners, notably Kevin Shattenkirk, in trying to establish offensive dominance.
The Kings are going to need Quick to withstand the barrage, and while previous history does suggest that he is capable of doing so, he has looked a little shaky at times in crunch time during this series. Los Angeles will need the good Quick to stand tall in the crease in order to win.