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November 22, 2011; St. Louis, MO, USA; Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown (23) handles the puck as St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) defends in the first period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Playoff Preview: That Other Series in the West

Firstly, you folks will just have to deal with me dropping some serious arrogance here. Who had the Kings? (a game earlier than I picked, but oh well) The Blues (another game off, but hey…) The Coyotes (bingo) and the Preds? (on the money, homey)

This site did. So listen up.

laughter ensues

April 1st-

As stated before, I want NO part of the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. They’re big, they play defense, and Jonathan Quick is a 4′x8′ sheet of plywood in the net. Of all the teams in the West, the Kings have the best recipe to beat Nashville.

-Dan Bradley, Predlines.com

If the Predators and the Coyotes are the perfect mirror match, the Kings and Blues aren’t too far behind.

Both have their share of big bodies, and play an imposing style that forces their opposition out of position… but more importantly they’re both very good and making their opposition struggle under their defensive will. Both are backtopped by their excellent goalies. From there forward, the similarities dim a little. Los Angeles can match their top six forwards with anyone in the league. As a hockey fan, seeing Dustin Brown get his due respect and admiration feels good. Same can be said for Anze Kopitar, who plays a similar game to Brad Richards. But now with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards wearing the crown, the Blues will have some tougher decisions on where to deploy the Alex Pietrangelo/Kevin Shattenkirk pairing.

If there is one area where the Blues have an advantage, it’s in the good ol’ experience department. Jason Arnott (our good friend and ex-un-heroic leader) and Jamie Langenbrunner play solid lower line minutes, but chip in with their younger forwards such as Chris Stewart. Both teams have formidable top pairs of defensemen, but the Kings MUST get some more offense from Drew Doughty in this series.

Neither team has made it past the first round in a good while. And if this is heralded as another changing of the guard in the west, which this year could prove to be, then get used to these two teams locking horns. Both sides have most of their core players locked up for a while.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Dustin Brown vs. David Backes – Captain America vs American Badass. Brown is among the best at drawing penalties, and Backes has shown to spend some time in the box (more than anyone else even considered for the Selke). Backes is great at establishing a primo position near the net, and creating havoc the old fashioned way. Either way, these guys have me more excited for Sochi than Patrick Kane.

Patrik Berglund vs. Jonathan Quick – Berglund is among the best in the league at redirections and getting a shot through traffic. To be honest, that may be the only way to beat Quick. The Kings will need guys like Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene to plow the road in front of Quick. The Canucks didn’t challenge the Kings enough in this area. Hence, they’re cleaning out their lockers today.

Dustin Penner vs Roman Polak – Penner was brought in last year for his size and hands. While he hasn’t been worth the price paid thus far, he’s still big. If the Kings staff heeded some good advice, have Penner watch footage of Shaq working his magic (PUN) at Staples against the Blazers and Kings. Just don’t open “that door” with Roman Polak.

Anze Kopitar vs Blues defense – When Anze is cooking, he finds every open space on the ice. The Blues don’t give you a darn thing, and have been known to frustrate those who try to play too fancy. His passes will need to be sharp, and concise.

Andy McDonald vs Kings Defense – There is no more underrated player I can think of than Andy McDonald. There’s a difference between being good, and being incredibly hard to play against. The Sharks had no answer for him. He’s not the biggest guy in the room, but he’s as slippery as they come. He shoots very wise shots, and has a great set of hands.

 

Prediction -

If you ever said you missed 90’s hockey, this is your chance to relive the glory years of the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils. The scoring depth of both teams is matched evenly by the defense corps for either side. The goaltending of Quick? Halak/Elliott were just as good.

The Blues like playing the slower paced, PG-13 rated hockey that reminds us of trench warfare. The Kings are slightly younger, and slightly bigger in their skill positions. In order for the Blues to execute their game plan, they count on being able to grind teams to bits and win puck battles. There aren’t many teams in the league that do that better than the Kings, and in the bottom six. If the Blues are going to win this series, it will be because Andy McDonald makes the Kings look like road cones. If the Kings are winning this, it will be because their forwards didn’t change their gameplan against the Canucks, and their defensemen won their individual battles.

This is really too close to call, but for argument’s sake… I’ll take the Kings in six.

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Tags: Andy McDonald Anze Kopitar Brian Elliott David Backes Dustin Brown Jaroslav Halak Jeff Carter Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings Matt Greene Mike Richards St. Louis Blues

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