Here’s the St. Louis Blues’ view of their first-round playoff matchup against the Kings, courtesy of Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Lous Post-Dispatch. He spoke to players and Coach Ken Hitchcock on Sunday.
The Kings, seeded fifth in the West, will open on the road against the No. 4 Blues. The NHL schedule was not expected to be released until late Sunday, but the Kings are operating on the assumption that Game 1 will be on Tuesday at Scottrade Center. They flew to St. Louis on Sunday and plan to practice there on Monday.
The Kings swept the Blues in the second round of last year’s playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Apparently, the Blues have not forgotten that, as you’ll read below.
David Perron: “Yeah, we lost, 4-0, but we've got something that we've got to prove. I think the last little while, we've been playing our game the right way. The coaching staff has been pretty happy that way so hopefully it keeps going like that.
“One thing that I remember from last year, every time we chipped it out of the zone, it was right back in our zone before we knew it. I think it's going to be really key to get on them right away with our big guys and I guess everyone. You've got to be physical with [Drew] Doughty and [Slava] Voynov and all these guys. I think if we do that, we'll be successful.”
Perron on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick: “I think you've got to try and keep him in the crease. He likes to be aggressive. That's the main point. Every goalie, there's going to be some stuff that you can bring up, but I think the biggest thing for him that makes him a successful goalie is he really comes out and he's aggressive on every single play. Even if you think you're on the goalie, he's going to be aggressive and he expects his 'D' to back him up if there's a puck in behind him.”
Barret Jackman: “It’s going to be a huge challenge. It's something I'm sure everyone in this room has thought about over the last 12 months. They're a good team, they're a very similar team to us, and they outplayed us and did more to get the wins last year. We've got something to prove and it's nice to be able to do that in the first round.
“We've outplayed them for one or two periods in games, but they're a team that doesn't go away. Maybe in those games that we played, we got on our heels and gave them an opportunity to continue their strong play and in the end beat us. That's something we can't do. We can't give them the luxury of being comfortable in their game and sitting back and let them pick us apart.”
Jackman noted that the Kings are largely the same team as they were last spring. “I think they've got [Robyn] Regehr in the back end and maybe [Jake] Muzzin, the young guy. They're very similar to what they had last year and another year of experience and a great run to the Cup. They're going to be even tougher to beat, but we're looking forward to it and we're looking forward to the challenge.”
Chris Porter: “They're a mirror image of us. They want to play physical and get in on the forecheck and be heavy on our 'D.' I think we want to do the same to them, so it's kind of a mirror image of each other.
“Not just our line, but our team is built for playoff hockey. Big, physical, can skate with anyone. I think L.A. obviously is built the same way, so for our line, we're going to try and be heavy and physical on their lines and put as much pressure on their 'D' as we can.”
Brian Elliott: “I'm not talking about last year or years past. It's about the next best game and the next game you're playing. It doesn't really matter what you've done in the past or what you're going to do in the future. It's about the present.
“No excuses in the playoffs as far as anything. Everybody's battling something. Last year doesn't really matter. It's about how you're feeling right now. It's a shortened season, so I don't think the guys are going in as tired. We've had a condensed year, but you haven't played as many games -- or at least I haven't. I feel a little bit fresher, excited to get the second season moving. What better time to do it against than the defending champs. It's a challenge and we feel we're up for it.
“A four-game series against a hard team can seem long. It doesn't matter how long it goes. It's just staying consistent and playing your game and not getting off your game plan and doing what you want to do out there.”
Coach Ken Hitchcock about the Kings: “I think their experience at going through this before helps them. They've been through it as a group for a couple years before we have. They've learned the lessons that we're trying to learn. Hopefully last year, we learned a lot of lessons and we can play better this year.
“We're playing better than we have all year. We're deeper than we've ever been. We didn't have....I think four players didn't play in that last game that we played against them, so we're different. They've got one change. We think we're better. Whether we're good enough this series is going to tell, but we think we're better than we've ever been and we think we're playing better than we've ever been.
“Los Angeles is the only team in the league with the experience of knowing what it takes to win. So until someone knocks them off, they're the only team with the knowledge of what it takes to win a Cup. We can all talk about it, but they've done it. We're going to have to tap into that experience as this series moves along and hopefully learn quickly from it.
“We learned a lot of lessons last year about how deep you have to go and how well you have to play, how disciplined you have to play and every little incident has a big reflection on it at the end of the day. I think we've learned a lot of those lessons. Hopefully we can put them into place now.
“In three of the games, they were just a little bit better. That's the difference in hockey. They were a goal better in three of the games and they deserved to win. It doesn't matter to me whether you lose four straight, you lost four games. Whether it's four straight or in seven games, it doesn't matter to me. It's about the individual game and the changes you have to make, but I think it's also relevant that they beat us three times in the regular season. They've proven right now that they're a little bit better than us. It's our opportunity now to see if we can catch up. Our players are hungry to try and see where we're at, at the end of the day here.”
Hitchcock also discussed the reasons for the Blues’ improvement and rise to the No. 4 seed. “Checking. Started to check. They bought into what we were trying to sell in March, and February, and January, but there wasn't a buy-in. There was in the last six weeks. When you check, you win hockey games. Sometimes you win it 4-1, sometimes you win it 5-1, sometimes you win it 1-0, but it's all about the bottom-end score. One-zero, two ... whatever. You give yourself a chance to win. It's not like we want to win 1-0, but the zero's important. When we started buying into the checking, we started to win hockey games.”