Sunday, April 29, 2012
Kings: Boarding penalty wobbles foundation of the Blues
By Dan Arritt
Western Conference semifinals
Game 2 (Kings lead series 1-0)
Kings vs. St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center, 6 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Series changer? -- Whether the contact made by Kings rookie forward Dwight King on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in Game 1 was a “vicious hit,” as one member of the St. Louis media claimed, or “not even a hit,” as Kings coach Darryl Sutter saw the play, it stands as not just a key moment in the game, but possibly the entire series. The Kings scored a shorthanded goal on the ensuing power play to take the lead for good, Pietrangelo didn’t return in his team's 3-1 loss and he was kept out of practice Sunday as well, putting him in jeopardy of missing Game 2. Pietrangelo is not just one of the top defensemen in the league, but he leads the Blues in ice time and is a vital part of their special teams.
2. Penner makes a peep -- Don’t look now but Dustin Penner officially joined Twitter on Sunday, a day after the brawny left wing produced a goal and an assist in the Game 1 victory at Scottrade Center. Not a bad time to open up to the world. The question is, can he string together back-to-back strong performances? Penner’s contract runs out after this season and he hasn’t done much in the past 14 months to show he’s worth the $4.25 million he's making. But if he can once again show he’s a big-game player by producing key points in the playoffs, as he did with the Ducks in 2007, he might just convince the Kings, or another organization, to meet his price tag.
3. Cue Game 2 -- In the first round of these playoffs, the team that won the second game went on to win the series five out of eight times, continuing a trend since 1987 that saw the Game 2 winner capture the series 70 percent of the time, regardless of the Game 1 outcome. The Kings are on a bit of a roll when it comes to the second playoff game, winning their past three dating back to 2010. Only in this postseason’s first round did they win the series, however. The Kings are even more impressive in their recent road playoff games, winning their past six away from Staples Center. It’s safe to say another win in St. Louis would put the Kings in great position to advance.
4. Power-play standoff -- In four regular-season games against the Kings and one playoff meeting, the Blues are 0-for-17 on the power play. The Kings have one of the best penalty-kill units in the league, but they can’t be perfect forever. That means the Kings need to find a way to produce with the man advantage, as well. They went 0-for-5 in Game 1 to fall to 3-for-31 during the postseason, making their mediocre 16.9 percent success rate during the regular season look fabulous. To their credit, the Kings set up their power play effectively in Game 1, and held possession for long stretches in the offensive zone, so it seems more likely the Kings will get on track before the Blues.
5. Quick, Quicker, Quickest -- After two failed attempts at leading his team through the first round, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is not only playing as advertised this postseason, he’s the main reason the Kings have won five out of six playoff games. Quick, one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's top goalie during the regular season, has allowed just nine goals and saved 95.5 percent of the shots he has faced. Opponents must feel like they need to be perfect with their shots, and that’s probably why Scott Nichol shot wide of an open net early in the second period when Quick was caught out of position following a deflected puck in the slot.