TCL Round 2 Staff Predictions: St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings


2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Western Conference Semifinals
St. Louis Blues ( 2 ) vs. Los Angeles Kings ( 8 )
Once again, we're looking at a series that most definitely has to be about the battle between the pipes, as St. Louis and Los Angeles face off as unlikely second round opponents. Jonathan Quick absolutely lit up the west this season and may have been the only reason the Kings even made the playoffs. On the other side of the ice, the Blues have two (count 'em!) goaltenders that could have and maybe should have been up for the Vezina trophy in Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. We may be sounding like a broken record, but there is no series left in these playoffs that will be more decided by defense and goaltending than this one.
But as similar as these two teams might be, in the ways the win games and play defensively, they're really not. The Blues are a team that simply doesn't have any clutch offensive threats or even any big name defensemen, that buckled down after a coaching change and won games based on hard work and collective defensive effort. The Kings are a team that have way too much talent, but talent that doesn't seem to want to break out, so they have to rely on their all-star goalie.
If you asked us earlier in the season which of these teams were more likely to make the second round, it would probably unanimously be the Kings. Now, after defeating the San Jose Sharks, the Blues seem like the shoe-ins to win and head to their first conference final in a long time. But lest we forget, these Kings took down the heavy West favorites in the Vancouver Canucks as if it were nothing, likely sending that team back into the dark ages. Never count an eighth seed out. 
Consensus: 7 of 12 TCL Writers picked the Blues to win this series. Our consensus is 7 games.
Round 1 Results:
Blues vs. Sharks: 10 of 15 TCL writers correctly picked the Blues to defeat the Sharks, with Chuck Gaston Jr. perfectly predicting a 5 game series.     
Kings vs. Canucks: Only 6 of 15 TCL writers picked the Kings to get past the Canucks, but Bryan Wright correctly predicted Kings in 5.
Game 1: Sat. April 28 at 7:30PM in St. Louis
Game 2: Mon. April 30 at 9PM in St. Louis
Game 3: Thu. May 3 at 10PM in Los Angeles
Game 4: Sun. May 6 at 3PM in Los Angeles
Game 5: Tue. May 8 at TBD in St. Louis (if necessary)
Game 6: Thu. May 10 at TBD in Los Angeles (if necessary)
Game 7: Sat. May 12 at TBD in St. Louis (if necessary)
*All Puckdrops are in Eastern Standard Time*
Season Series: Kings lead 3-1, outscored Blues 9-3
Previous Meetings: The Blues swept the Kings twice in 1969 and 1998.
Coaching Battle: Ken Hitchcock vs. Darryl Sutter
Key Injuries:
St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak (lower body, 1-2 weeks)

Los Angeles: Simon Gagne (concussion, indefinitely)

Genius Or Madness?
Robert D'Aurelio -- Blues in 5
This may very well be a reincarnation of the Wild-Ducks series we experienced in 2003 (i.e. the most boring series in hockey history). Jonathan Quick and Brian Elliott have proven themselves as elite goaltenders thus far and each net-minder doesn't have much to worry about offensively, at least. This series is going to come down to mistakes and playing the system correctly. In my opinion, St. Louis plays their system the absolute best of all the teams left in the playoffs. Since the Blues and Kings play similar styles, expect a lot of 1 goal hockey games. LA will likely be annoyed with Hitchcock's suffocating system and will eventually hand over some glamorous scoring chances which the Blues will capitalize on.
Prax's Take:
Another series, another wonderful goaltending battle. Jonathan Quick has been quite spectacular for the Kings this season, and in the series against the Canucks, who he made quick work of. But on the other hand you have the most unlikely goalie tandem in the NHL in Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. If I had my way, they would both be nominated for the Vezina this year. Halak is out for the beginning of the series in all likelihood, but with Elliott between the pipes, and Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, the Blues don't have much to worry about, other than getting pucks past Quick, something they had trouble with even against the Sharks. 
Both these teams have a lot of offensive forwards that need to be performing better, and both teams have shut things down defensively as a result. It'll probably be a low scoring series, and it'll probably come down to one goal when it's all said and done, but after the meteoric rise of the Blues in the second half of the off-season, I just can't see them failing just yet. The Blues are going to the Western Conference Finals, but the Kings will make it relatively difficult for them.
Prediction: Blues in 6
Around The Checking Line:
Featured Writer -- Mark Trible:
The Kings look like the trendy pick to make the Cup out of the west. St. Louis keeps proving people wrong, and playing as an underdog should help them here. Why bet against the gritty Blues? Hitchcock looks like a genius and they have thrived thus far under his guidance. They'll do it again in the best series of the semifinals.

Prediction: Blues in 7

Featured Writer -- Kyle Andrew Busch: 
The Kings are not an eighth seed. They're more like a four that played poorly during the season, but looking at their dominance of the President's Trophy Canucks, they have to have opened people's eyes, including the Blues. St. Louis is a feel good story of Ken Hitchcock and a defensively sound team with a great goalie combo. Only one plays though, and I wager that Jonathan Quick is better, based on what I've seen. The Kings are stacked with scoring; Carter, Kopitar, Richards, Penner, Brown, Williams) and their defence is no pushover either (Doughty, Martinez, Greene, Voynov). It's going to be a fun series to watch, but LA will take it in the seventh game. Look for a random blow out too.
Prediction: Kings in 7
Featured Writer -- Jordan Kuhns: 
This series won't feature many goals. Two defensive-minded teams will fight out a hard-hitting, tight-checking series. The series will come down to special teams. The Blues' power play could not be stopped by the San Jose Sharks, and their penalty kill worked just fine as well. The Kings will give this one a really good fight, but feel like Hitchcock's system will give the Kings nothing to work with. Who knows, though...Quick was really, really good in the quarters against Vancouver.
Prediction: Blues in 6
Featured Writer -- Newman: Kings in 6
Featured Writer -- Adam Pardes
St. Louis certainly isn't going to make things as easy for the Kings as the Canucks did last round. Their goaltending will be better and they will crash the net and make Quick's life much harder than it has been. Should be a fun one to watch, but I definitely think the Blues grind their way through to the Conference Finals.
Prediction: Blues in 7
A.K. Bennett:
Los Angeles now faces a team that was stingier than them this season after taking down the high-powered Canucks. St. Louis is used to grinding out 1-0 and 2-1 type wins and will be a far more physical team to match up against. In a series where goals will be difficult to come by St. Louis has the deeper offense by far. It should be a competitive series but St. Louis should come out on top.
Prediction: Blues in 6
Andy Veilleux:
These teams are ridiculously similar. Neither boasts stellar offense, but both teams are defensive experts. The Blues had an easy round against the Sharks and the King had a surprisiningly easy time against the Canucks. Both teams have hot goaltenders (The Blues will boast two once Halak is fully fit) and it will be a goalie battle like the Canucks/Kings and Senators/Rangers series were. In the end the Blues are slightly tighter defensively and should triumph.
Prediction: Blues in 6
John Russo: 
The Kings sent the Canucks packing last series, riding the hot goaltending of Vezina nominee Jonathan Quick. St. Louis is doing the same, boasting a stout defense that has made both Brian Elliot and Jaraslov Halak look unbeatable all season. Only one will play in the playoffs and it's been Elliot. The Kings have a lot of dangerous scoring in front of them, including Mike Richards and Jeff Carter who were acquired in the off season and trade deadline respectively. The Kings are a much better team than their seeding suggests and that has shown. Will it be enough to knock off one of the best defensive teams in hockey? It'll take seven games to decide this potential thriller
Prediction: Kings in 7
Maggie Avila:
The Kings have just as solid goaltending as St. Louis and their defense is no slouch either. Both teams are physical and love to clog up the middle. The difference in this one will be who can generate enough offense which I believe favors the Kings with Richards, Carter, Brown, Kopitar ect. These games will be close and I fully expect alot of OT but based on fire power I give the nod in this series to LA.
Prediction: Kings in 7
Nick Symon: 
This is by far the toughest series to predict in my mind. Goaltending/defensive play is a wash, so who will score more goals? Well you might only need one every game and my gut tells me the likes of Richards and Brown have a better pedigree than Backes and co. Kings in seven I guess
Prediction: Kings in 7