Blues goaltender Brian Elliott prepares for a wrap-around shot by Sharks… (Josie Lepe / McClatchy-Tribune )
If the Kings walk by and look in the mirror, they see the St. Louis Blues.
Pleased to meet me.
They played four times this season and the Kings won three of those meetings, the final one on March 22. That set the tone of what could be the tempo of this second-round playoff series.
Old-school, low-scoring hockey. A defensive clinic for the ages.
On March 22, at Staples Center, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and his Blues counterpart Brian Elliott both had shutouts. The Kings won it, 1-0, after four rounds of a shootout. Of course, that's not an option of escape in the playoffs.
Another common thread with the teams was an in-season coaching change as management opted for strong-willed, new leaders with strong roots in western Canada.
St. Louis was the first to make a switch, replacing Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock in early November — and the Blues immediately rocketed in the standings. The Kings fired Terry Murray and brought in Darryl Sutter shortly before Christmas.
Hitchcock has been coaching against Sutter for years in the NHL, dating to when Sutter guided the San Jose Sharks, and he has noticed a similarity or two.
"This team that he has plays the same way his team did in San Jose," Hitchcock said Monday in a phone interview. "I knew he [Sutter] was going to get his players to play with that type of commitment."
How they match up (regular-season statistics):
KINGS: Anze Kopitar 25 goals, 76 points; Justin Williams 22 goals, 59 points; Dustin Brown 22 goals, 54 points.
BLUES: David Backes 24 goals, 54 points; T.J. Oshie 19 goals, 54 points; Alex Pietrangelo 12 goals, 52 points. Backes is a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward.
KINGS: Jonathan Quick — 35-21-13, 1.95 goals-against average, .930 save percentage. Quick gave up eight goals in the five games against the Canucks in the first round, including a shutout in Game 3.
BLUES: Brian Elliott — 23-10-4, 1.56 goals-against average, .940 save percentage. Jaroslav Halak 26-12-7, 1.97 goals-against average, .926 save percentage. They combined for 15 shutouts in the regular season, nine for Elliott and six for Halak. Halak has been ruled out of the first two games of the series with the Kings because of a reported ankle injury he sustained in Game 2 against the Sharks in the first round.
KINGS: 87% (fourth); BLUES: 85.8% (seventh).
KINGS: 17% (17th), BLUES: 16.7% (19th).
How they got here
KINGS: The Kings won their first playoff series since 2001, and only the second since their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993. They beat the Canucks, the Presidents' Trophy winners, in five games, and it was the 10th time since 1994 that the No. 1-seeded team lost to the eighth-seeded team.
BLUES: St. Louis ended a playoff drought too, winning its first series since 2002. The Blues beat the Sharks in five games, sparked by forward Andy McDonald's four goals and four assists and Elliott, who started and won the final three games after Halak was injured.
They said it
KINGS: "They're a heavy team. They play a heavy game, a physical game … It's going to be a war," Kings center Jarret Stoll, on the Blues.
BLUES: "I told people whoever plays Los Angeles at any time has their hands full. And Vancouver found that out," Hitchcock on the Kings.