The Los Angeles Kings defeated the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals matchup by a score of 3-1. Goals were scored by Slava Voynov, Matt Greene (short-handed), and Dustin Penner (empty netter) for the Kings, and David Backes for the Blues. Here are key stats, news, and notes from the game.
Tight and Low-Scoring, as expected. The running joke going into this series was that the over/under for goals in the series could be as low as 7. The goalies did their best to stick to that, as Brian Elliott and Jonathan Quick made some marvelous saves throughout the first game. Quick was tested very early as he had to make two key saves in the first period right on the edge of the crease. Meanwhile, Elliott was a major key to the Blues having a perfect penalty kill in the 3rd period. Quick finished the night with 28 saves on 29 shots while Elliott had 26 saves on 28 shots. It’s safe to expect similar numbers throughout the series.
Penalties Control Game 1. The first game of the series played out in a normal and expected manner (tied, tight-checking game) until late in the 2nd period. With less than 2 minutes left in the 2n d period, Kings’ forward Dwight King received a 2 minute minor for boarding Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo was roughly four feet from the boards with his back turned to King, and King fully extended his arm in sending Pietrangelo down. The Blues were incensed about the penalty, and rightly so as it easily could have, and perhaps should have, been called as a 5 minute major for boarding. Demonstrating a lack of focus after the call, the Blues promptly gave up a short-handed chance just 10 seconds into their powerplay as Dustin Brown took a shot that resulted in a rebound on the crease in front of goalie Brian Elliott. Defenseman Matt Greene followed up the play and put the puck into the net with little opposition from the Blues to give the Kings a 2-1 lead while short-handed.
The third period was then marked by a stream of penalties by the Blues as David Perron, T.J. Oshie, and Kevin Shattenkirk took 8 minutes worth of penalties in a 10 minute span. The Kings could not score on their four powerplay opportunities in the third period, but the Blues lost a significant amount of time and energy during their penalty killing efforts. Once it was time to make a final push to tie the game, the Blues appeared to be winded and out of rhythm from the constant struggle to stay within one goal.
Despite the powerplay opportunities for both teams, there were no powerplay goals as the Blues went 0 for 3 and the Kings went 0 for 5. This trend will be a major factor as the series continues with the goaltenders stealing the show.
Pietrangelo’s Injury May Be Series-Changing. Pietrangelo did not return to the game after the King hit late in the 2nd period and that may be detrimental to the Blues in this series. He led the Blues with almost 9 minutes of ice time in the first period and had been averaging over 25 minutes per game in the first round. He plays valuable minutes on the powerplay and penalty kill, so losing him may put a major strain on the defensive regulars. As of now, he is questionable for Game 2.
Voynov Steps Up. The Kings’ Slava Voynov hardly looked like a rookie as he scored his first career playoff goal, pinching
in towards the backside of the net and finishing a feed from Dustin Penner. Voynov stepped up quite a few times in this game and put 3 shots on net without sacrificing too much in the defensive end. The one time he was caught in the offensive zone, he skated back with such speed that he still managed to help partner Alec Martinez break up a potential 2 on 1. If Voynov continues to play with the confidence he showed in Game 1, he may turn into a major X-factor for the Kings’ offense.
Change in Playoff Fortunes. The Blues and Kings have met in the playoffs twice previously. The first time was in 1969 in the Semifinals, when St. Louis swept the Kings with ease. The second time produced the same result, as the Blues again swept the Kings in the 1998 Conference Quarterfinals. Both times, St. Louis was the higher seeded team. With a Game 1 victory, the Kings have finally broken the streak and beaten the Blues for the first time in their playoff history.
Kings’ Game 1 History. Analysts will quickly look to Game 1 to see how it impacts the rest of the series. The Kings won Game 1 against Vancouver last round as they advanced in 5 games. Meanwhile, the Blues lost Game 1 against San Jose last round in double overtime, but came back to win the next 4 games to win the series in 5 as well. So while that statistic may be thrown out, history demonstrates the Kings will benefit greatly from the Game 1 victory. After winning Game 1, the franchise has recorded a 7-6 series record. However, after losing Game 1, they have put up a horrible 5-19 series record. Every win helps!
For more regular season and playoff numbers on the Kings, I suggest checking out the Kings Media Postseason Guide (PDF)