The Los Angeles Kings will officially begin the defense of their 2012 Stanley Cup championship when the team challenges the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Tuesday night. Los Angeles swept the season series against St. Louis (3-0-0) and have won seven consecutive games against the Blues dating back to last postseason.
Entering the playoffs on a three-game winning streak, St. Louis compiled a 7-3-0 record in their final 10 games of the regular season to capture home-ice advantage in the first round. Coming off a series sweep in the Western Conference Semifinals last year and a season sweep this year, the red-hot Blues will attempt to seek redemption against the Kings.
1. Will the Blues manage to hold the Kings to less than four goals?
Los Angeles outscored the Blues, 14-7, during their three-game regular season series. In each game, the Kings produced at least four goals. St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliot has been dominating through April, collecting an 11-2-0 record with a 1.28 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and three shutouts. Will he put an end to the Kings' goal-scoring success?
2. How effective will T.J. Oshie be in Game 1?
Oshie has missed missed all of April due to surgery on an injured ankle. He stated on Monday that he will play against the Kings in Game 1. If this is the case, will he have any impact on the outcome? In three games against Los Angeles this season, Oshie didn't register any points and averaged 19:24 of ice-time.
3. How important will special teams be?
Both teams are ranked in the top 10 in the penalty kill and power play. St. Louis successfully killed off 84.7 percent of their penalties (ranked seventh), while Los Angeles handled 83.2 percent of their infractions (ranked 10th). Both teams successfully converted on the power play: 19.9 percent of the time for the Kings and 19.5 percent of the time for the Blues.
Kings forwards Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter finished the year tied for seventh in power play goals scored (eight goals), while Chris Stewart led the Blues with six (which is the same number Kings forward Mike Richards finished with).
However, Los Angeles converted on one of 15 man advantage opportunities during the season series, while St. Louis produced two goals on 15 opportunities of their own. While it didn't alter the outcome of the games, will special teams make any difference in Game 1?