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Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: #4 St. Louis Blues vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings

In Hockey on April 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Get ready for a series in which both teams could seriously hurt each other (fingers crossed!).

The St. Louis Blues didn’t look like the same team that made things miserable for opponents for much of the year. But over the last few weeks, the Blues appear to have rounded into form. Thanks to the Blackhawks icing their AHL team in the regular season finals, cheating me out of a Sharks-Kings matchup, St. Louis will open at home for the second straight year.

The first thing that stands out for the Blues is their defense, which might be the deepest out of all the teams in the playoffs. Adding Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold has shored things up on the back end and made Brian Elliott look like an all-star again. Speaking of Elliott, he is the unquestioned top goalie going into the playoffs this year, and he’s going to have the microscope on him given how bad the Kings made him look last year.

On offense, the Blues are more dangerous than you might think. As much attention as their defense and Ken Hitchcock’s boring system get the credit, the forwards are deep and have plenty of skill. With Chris Stewart playing for a new deal and a healthy Andy McDonald, this team has a legitimate chance to make a run to the conference finals for the first time since 2001.

Oh hey, the Kings open the playoffs as the underdog again. Of course, that doesn’t bother them whatsoever. It’s not far-fetched for the Kings to steam-roll through the playoffs again. But in order for that to happen, Jonathan Quick needs to figure a few things out. He didn’t play during the most pointless lockout in sports history and had back surgery before the lockout came to an end, making him look pedestrian at times. But he’s been here before, and I have to think Quick will be ready to go.

Just like the Blues, the Kings are extremely deep at forward and on the blue line. I like the skill of the Kings more than the skill of the Blues in this series. Anze Kopitar is the most talented player in the series, and he’s flanked by playoff warriors Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. If the Kings can swarm the Blues with all four lines like they did last year, they’ll be smiling in the handshake line once again this year.

Plus, if we can see this again, that would be awesome. That’s what you get when you fight in your weight class, Roman Polak.

St. Louis will win if:They learned their lesson from one year ago. Last year’s series between these two teams wasn’t even close, and the Blues need to be as physical as they have been all year to unseat the defending champs. They got killed in that area last season and Brian Elliott was exposed as a mediocre goaltender. St. Louis needs to put that in their rear-view mirror to have any success this year.

Los Angeles will win if:
They can handle the pressure of being the hunted. This is basically the same team that won the Cup last year. But they know this year, the target is on their back and their chest. Teams are going to throw everything they have at the Kings, and it’s going to start with a team that can match their physicality.

Prediction:
Trainers, get your ice packs ready. These two teams are going to throw everything they have at each other, and a Cup favorite is going to be done after the first round. I’m actually very excited about this series because it’s going to be the closest thing to legalized assault we will see in the first round. Hitchcock and Blues’ captain David Backes will not allow his team to get run over like they did last year. In the end, I like the guy between the pipes for the Kings to be the difference maker.

Plus, I look forward to the humor coming from @theroyalhalf on Twitter. If you hate the Kings, you’re REALLY going to hate that guy.

Without question, this has been the hardest series for me to make my mind up on. If there was any way both teams could lose this series, I’d be cool with that. But someone has to win. Kings in 7.

I am Ryan Thomas, and I approve this post. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 so you can harass me for an opinion piece. Also, so you can tell me why it’s wrong to dislike Roman Polak. Keep in mind, I will ignore anything you try to tell me.

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