Here’s Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick’s instant analysis on facing the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs: “We’ve caught a few bounces along the way, but that’s not going to play at all into Game 1. We both start 0-0 and we’re just going to have to outwork them. They’ve got some big forwards, strong forwards. They go hard at the net. (They’re) strong on the back end, a couple of skilled guys who can really create stuff on the power play. They’ve got great goaltending.”
History lesson: The Kings swept the Blues 4-0 in the second round of the playoffs last season en route to their first Stanley Cup championship. The Kings limited the Blues to only six goals in the series and blanked them on 17 power-play chances. The Kings then swept three games during the 2012-13 regular-season from the Blues, outscoring them 14-7. Overall, the Kings have won eight consecutive games against St. Louis.
Facts and figures: The Kings (27-16-5 in the regular season) are seeded fifth in the Western Conference and the Blues (29-17-2) are seeded fourth.
Leaders: Anze Kopitar led the Kings with 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists). Jeff Carter scored a team-leading 26 goals. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was 18-13-4 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. Chris Stewart led the Blues with 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists). Stewart also was their leading goal-scorer. Goaltender Brian Elliott was 14-8-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Keys to victory: For the Kings, their combination of physical defense, strong goaltending and timely scoring served them well last spring during their run to the Stanley Cup. It was what guided them to fifth place in the Western Conference this season and it will be what could produce a victory over the Blues in the first round of the playoffs. For the Blues, they must eliminate the undisciplined play that sometimes characterizes their team. They must also rely heavily on Elliott in goal. He was the reason they finished fourth in the West. He was 11-2-0 with a 1.28 goals against average and three shutouts in April and gave up one goal or less in 10 of his final 13 appearances of the regular season.
Here is the Kings’ first-round playoff schedule against the St. Louis Blues:
Game 1: Tuesday at St. Louis, 5 p.m., CNBC.
Game 2: Thursday at St. Louis, 6:30 p.m., CNBC.
Game 3: Saturday at Staples Center, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network.
Game 4: May 6 at Staples Center, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network.
Game 5 (if necessary): May 8 at St. Louis, to be determined.
Game 6 (if necessary): May 10 at Staples Center, TBD.
Game 7 (if necessary): May 13 at St. Louis, TBD.
The Kings’ task Saturday night was simple.
They needed a victory over the San Jose Sharks to finish fifth in the Western Conference playoffs and face the fourth-place St. Louis Blues. A loss to the Sharks would have dropped the Kings to sixth and set up a date with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Kings won’t have team captain Dustin Brown when they face the San Jose Sharks in the regular-season finale Saturday night at Staples Center. Brown will serve the second game of a two-game suspension from the NHL for elbowing Jason Pominville of the Minnesota Wild during the Kings’ loss Tuesday. Brown is eligible to return for Game 1 of the playoffs next week. Until then, the Kings will be shorthanded.
The Kings proved last spring home-ice advantage means nothing in the playoffs, becoming the first eighth-seeded team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup. They didn’t have home-ice advantage for any of the four rounds of the playoffs. That doesn’t mean they want or expect a repeat this spring, according to defenseman Drew Doughty.
“Even though we didn’t need it last year, it’s definitely very important and something that our team really wants,” he said. “The coaches have been harping on us to get that home-ice spot. We kind of blew it the last two games … but we still have a shot at it. We want it. To be able to sleep in your own bed, to be able to be in front of our home fans … it’s hard to go into another team’s barn when the crowd’s going nuts for them and you’ve got to try and steal the first win. But if you’re at home, not that it’s easier, but it’s more comforting.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said left wing Dustin Penner would return to the lineup for Saturday’s game against the San Jose Sharks and that defenseman Matt Greene might be sidelined for the regular-season finale at Staples Center.
Penner was scratched for the Kings’ loss Wednesday to the Red Wings in Detroit, but was skating with right wing Justin Williams and center Jarret Stoll during Friday’s practice at the team’s El Segundo training facility.
Tim Leiweke, architect of the AEG sports empire that includes the Stanley Cup champion Kings and Staples Center, didn’t spend long on the sidelines. He was hired Friday as the president and chief executive of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in Toronto.
MLSE is the parent company of the Maple Leafs, the Raptors of the NBA, Toronto FC of MLS plus a junior-level hockey team called the Marlies as well as Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto. Leiweke begins his new job June 30.
The Kings can clinch fourth place in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage for the opening round of the playoffs with a victory Saturday night over the visiting San Jose Sharks in regulation, overtime or a shootout and a loss by the St. Louis Blues in any fashion to the Chicago Blackhawks.
What if that doesn’t happen?
Glad you asked.
There are 11 other scenarios, according to research by the Kings’ crack media relations department, including five in which the team tumbles all the way to sixth place and gets stuck playing the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the opening round. In fact, a regulation loss for the Kings to the Sharks would drop them to sixth, no matter what.
It’s also possible the Kings could remain in fifth place and start the postseason on the road. For instance, a regulation victory for the Kings over the Sharks coupled with a win in any fashion for the Blues over the Blackhawks would leave the Kings in fifth, with the Blues fourth and the Sharks sixth.
Bottom line: wait and see. All will be revealed Saturday night.
Dustin Brown received a two-game suspension from the NHL on Wednesday for elbowing Jason Pominville of the Minnesota Wild in the second period of Tuesday’s game. Brown, the Kings’ team captain, will sit out Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings and Saturday’s regular-season finale against the San Jose Sharks. Brown also will forfeit $34,324.32, with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The play happened along the boards, with Brown waiting to accept the puck. Pominville skated toward him and before he could deliver a check, Brown raised his left elbow and struck the Wild forward in the head. No penalty was called on the play, which happened at 10:04 of the second period. Pominville fell backwards onto the ice, was injured and could not return to the game, won by the Wild 2-1.
This is Brown’s first suspension in his career. He played in 314 consecutive games, dating to Feb. 27, 2009. He was only 16 games shy of Anze Kopitar’s team record for consecutive games played.
The Kings (26-16-5, 57 points) are in fourth place in the Western Conference. The Sharks (25-14-7, 57 points) are in fifth. Each team has two games remaining. The Sharks played the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday.