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.
The Kings won’t win the Western Conference or the Pacific Division. The best they can do is finish fourth in the conference and second in the division. But with only three regular-season games remaining before they begin their Stanley Cup championship defense, it would be difficult to find a team playing better then the Kings are at the moment.
It certain seems as if Kings coach Darryl Sutter has settled on Jonathan Quick as his No. 1 goaltender now that the regular season is down to only three games and the Stanley Cup playoffs are right around the corner. Sutter had this to say about Quick, who made 24 saves in the Kings’ 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday night: “I think he’s been really good for us lately and I think it’s kind of on record of him saying that it’s about winning games and us saying it’s about giving us a chance to win.”
Late-night reading …
It was a goaltenders’ duel at times, a test of wills at others, and frequently a bone-jarring matchup of teams looking ahead to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Mostly, though, it was a game in which a bounce here and a deflection there determined the outcome.
The Kings squeezed past the Ducks 2-1 by the barest of margins, with Mike Richards slotting a perfectly-placed shot into the back of the net for the decisive goal late in the second period Saturday night at Staples Center.
Jonathan Quick’s daughter, Madison, got loads of attention during a post-Stanley Cup victory press conference in which her dad showed off the Conn Smythe trophy and she began to choke on a piece of candy. Dad didn’t panic in the least and no harm came to the child as reporters and a world-wide TV audience looked on with concern. Madison welcomed baby brother, Carter, to the world the other day and after a little bit of a rocky start, all is well in the Quick family. Reported the proud father:
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick could only watch and share in the anguish of Sami Aittokallio, who had to leave his NHL debut in the third period Thursday because of cramping in both legs. The 20-year-old Finn played a strong game and left with the score tied at 2.
“That’s not the first time we’ve seen it,” Quick said after the Kings’ practice Friday. “So, give the goalie some credit. It’s a tough gig we’ve got. Playing well, too. He was playing really well. I remember my first game. I couldn’t nap. You’re so excited. He’s a young kid. He looked good. He played really well and kept them in the game. We were outplaying them for quite a bit there. He kept them close enough to stay in striking distance. It’s unfortunate he didn’t get to close it out. He’ll get another chance down the road.”
Jonathan Quick grew up in Connecticut and has a rooting interest in the Frozen Four, with two New Haven schools battling for the championship. Quinnipiac defeated St. Cloud State in one semifinal and will face Yale, which beat UMass Lowell, in the championship game. Quick didn’t see either game because he was busy preparing for the Kings’ 3-2 shootout victory Thursday over the Colorado Avalanche. He was keenly interested, though.
Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco gave rookie goaltender Sami Aittokallio his first start Thursday night. All he had to do was face the defending Stanley Cup champions two nights after they stunk it up in the third period of a 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. The Avs didn’t make it easy on the 20-year-old Finn, giving up two early goals and hardly showing up after they played exceptionally well in defeating the Ducks on Wednesday. Jeff Carter (power play) and Mike Richards scored for the Kings, who outshot Colorado 15-4 in the period. Jonathan Quick hardly had to break a sweat in the opening 20 minutes.
Jonathan Quick returned to the Kings’ net Saturday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers and his teammates eased his burden with a fast start at Staples Center. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter scored first-period goals and Quick made 23 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
The Kings moved past the idle San Jose Sharks into fourth place in the Western Conference standings. The Oilers are on the outside looking in at the postseason. The Kings play the Ducks on Sunday, and the Sharks face the Dallas Stars.
Here’s the recap from The Associated Press:
Jason LaBarbera stopped 39 shots, Keith Yandle scored his second goal late in the third period and the Phoenix Coyotes opened a critical homestand with a 3-1 win over the Kings on Tuesday night in Glendale, Ariz.
Needing to make up ground in the Western Conference standings, the Coyotes played their usual close-to-the-vest game and managed to hold on for their second win in 10 games after blowing two one-goal leads last week.
Matthew Lombardi put Phoenix ahead with his fourth goal of the season in the second period and Yandle followed his 50th career goal in the first with a tough-angle shot that beat Jonathan Quick with less than 3 minutes left.
LaBarbera, a former King, made some tough saves in his fifth straight start in place of injured starter Mike Smith, the only goal against him a shot by Justin Williams that deflected off a Coyotes defenseman in the first period.
Quick had 28 saves for the Kings, who finished a five-game road trip 3-1-1.