So, once again the Blues and Kings meet in the playoffs, this time in the first roumd, with the Blues narrowly earning home ice advantage finishing one point ahead of the Kings. It's amazing how similar their records are after this shortened season. Los Angeles (133) scored only four more goals than St. Louis, while St. Louis (115) allowed only three fewer goals against. The Kings had a better home record (19-4-1); the Blues had the better road record (14-9-1). The similarities extend to the playoffs. In 38 playoff appearances over 45 years, St. Louis has a losing record in series (26-35) and games (149-168), while in 28 playoff appearances over the same number of years, Los Angeles also has a losing record in series (16-24) and games (75-99). Both clubs have been to the Finals, the Blues three times and the Kings twice. The biggest single difference, of course, is that Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup last year.
The Kings won all three games of the regulation season series over the Blues, two in St. Louis, doubling the goal totals, 14-7. In fact, the Kings have now won the last eight games in a row with the Blues, including a sweep in last year's playoffs series. Counting a shootout goal, the Kings have outscored the Blues 30 to 13 in that span. The last time the Blues defeated the Kings was on February 3, 2012 by a score of 1-0. As usual, bonus points to anyone who can remember the player who scored and the goaltender who earned the shutout in that last Blues' victory. Both teams play a close-checking, grinding game, limiting shots against. Only New Jersey allowed fewer shots against than the Blues, ranked second with 24.2 and the Kings, ranked third at 25.0. And both the power play and penalty killing teams are similar, Los Angeles having a slightly better power play (19.9% to 19.5) and St. Louis slightly better penalty killing (84.7% to 83.2). As is typical to the playoffs, the superior goaltender(s) will win the series.
Many players have skated for both teams, the two most notable being Wayne Gretzky and Pavol Demitra. Andy Murray, Ray Bennett and Bob Berry have coached in both St. Louis and Los Angeles. And the Blues current Director of Player Personnel is Dave Taylor, who starred for the Kings as a member of the Triple Crown line with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer. Taylor is also the Kings' all-time games played leader, as well as the Kings' General Manager from 1997-2006, winning more games than any other G.M in the club's history. The director of Player Development for Los Angeles is Nelson Emerson, who was drafted by the Blues and scored 45 goals and 132 points over two full seasons (after leading Peoria to the Turner Cup in 1991). He also played three seasons and was an assistant coach for the Kings.
The make-up for both teams is eerily similar as well. Both teams used the draft to select young star players from 2003 to 2010, while depending on free agents and trades since then. The Blues chose amateur forwards David Backes, T. J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Perron, Jaden Schwartz, Vlad Tarasenko and defensemen Roman Polak, Ian Cole and Alex Pietrangelo; while the Kings picked up forwards Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Dwight King, Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford, defensemen Alex Martinez and Drew Doughty and goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier. Major trades for the Blues included Andy McDonald from Anaheim, Alex Steen from Toronto, Jaro Halak from Montreal,Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk from Colorado, Jordan Leopold from Buffalo and Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary. The Kings traded for Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner and Matt Greene from Edmonton, Justin Williams from Carolina, Mike Richards from Philadelphia, Jeff Carter from Columbus and defenseman Keaton Ellerby from Florida. Notable free agents for the Blues were veteran center Scott Nichol and goaltender Darren Elliott; while the Kings signed veteran defensemen Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell. Both clubs have a nice blend of experience and youth, as well as natural skill and raw grit. Whether the series lasts four games or seven, it won't be a surprise no matter which team survives.
The Blues have won six straight at home now, outscoring opponents 16-6. They have also won five out of the last seven on the road. The Kings have won seven straight at the Staples Center by a margin of 21 goals for and 10 against. However, they lost all six road games in April, albeit two in shootouts, outscored 9-20. Blues Nation is hoping that trend continues into May and beyond. And it would be extremely kind of the hockey gods allowing the injured Jamie Langenbrunner and Jaro Halak coming back into this series and continuing their heroics of February, 2012.
Watching this series is going to be like watching twin brothers fighting with each others' image in a mirror.