LOS ANGELES • A perceived advantage for the Blues heading into their playoff series with LA was the additions of defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold.
It's hard to quantify what Bouwmeester and Leopold have meant in the first two games, but in three regular-season meetings this year prior to their arrival, the Kings averaged 4.7 goals. They have just one goal in each of the first two games.
"I think it just gives them a different look, Bouwmeester especially, the way he can move the puck and skate," LA's Dustin Brown said. "He can get it up to their forwards quicker. He's obviously an elite player. It gives them another puck-moving defenseman, which I think helps their team."
Bouwmeester has proved to be a prime partner for Alex Pietrangelo, as both players are a plus-1 in the series and played major minutes.
“We always knew he was a great skater, but the way he uses that to his advantage is amazing, whether I make a mistake and he covers me or he makes a mistake a gets and he gets himself out of the problem," Pietrangelo said. "He understands the game extremely well. He makes the game look easy the way he plays."
Playoffs are about physicality, but the ability of Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo to move the puck quickly has been even a bigger benefit to the Blues.
"Everything gets ramped up, the energy and the physical play," Bouwmeester said. "You're playing the same team over and over again and you get those little confrontations that go from game to game. But I think the way our games are pretty similar...you don't want to run out of position to make big hits.
"You don't want to change too much because it's this time of year. You have to stick with what gets you there. You know teams are coming for you — that doesn't change — but I think our focus is to move the puck and get it to our forwards because that's where we want to be playing."
Going into Game 3, Brown said: "We've got to continue to play our game and make it hard on Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo. The only way to get to those types of guys is to slow them down and be physical with them. They've done a good job of eluding our checks. We've got to do a better job of just getting a piece. It's not about making a big hit on those guys. It's about making them get a bump every time and wear them down. It's going to take everyone to do that. It can't be one or two guys."
Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-Alexander Steen
David Perron-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald-Vladimir Sobotka-Chris Stewart
Adam Cracknell-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Jordan Nolan
Robyn Regehr-Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi-Alec Martinez
Jake Muzzin-Slava Voynov
In Hitchcock's morning press conference, the Blues coach said something that caught the attention of many.
"It's such a different game here with the smaller ice surface here," Hitchcock said.
Come again? Smaller ice surface? The Staples Center, like all NHL rinks, is 200 feet by 85 feet.
"Way smaller," Hitchcock elaborated. "Corners come up quick. Around the net, you feel like you're in the corner. It's just a rounded building. Same surface but the configuration here makes it a different feel, a different feel for the on-ice players, different feel for the coaches. Things happen a lot quicker in this building and you've just got to be ready for it.
"I've said that for years in this building. It's an interesting building. Some of the buildings are more rectangular in the corners and these are rounded. They round off quick. We made changes the last game to play in this building, so hopefully we can continue to make those changes."
For the record, Lee Zeidman, Sr. VP and general manager of the Staples Center, told the LA Times on Saturday, "I have never heard that before. We're 85' x 200' which is the standard for NHL arenas."
Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko is keeping a good attitude, despite being a healthy scratch for the first two games of the series.
"I'm OK," Tarasenko said after Saturday's morning skate. "It's a good experience for me. The guys win, and I can't be sad when guys win. I'm so happy we lead 2-0. If the team wins, that's the main (thing)."
Tarasenko added that he's working hard every day on "just what the coaches tell me."
PERRON VS. QUICK
The Blues' David Perron has one point in the series, an assist, and he may be assisting in another area: getting under the skin of LA goalie Jonathan Quick.
"He's one of their best players," Perron said. "Last year, he's probably the one that made the biggest difference to get us out (of the playoffs). Just trying to get to him. Just got to do anything I can to get into his head. If I'm skating by every time and he yells at me, it means I've got to keep doing it."
Quick is yelling at Perron?
"Sometimes yeah," Perron said. "I think we're having fun out there. As long as it stays healthy like that and we're both going at each other, why not?"
In Game 2, with the puck floating around in the Blues' offensive zone, the goal horn sounded.
"I kind of stutter-stepped," Oshie said, "but I knew what was going on."
Not everyone did, though, as play seemed to pause momentarily.
"When you here the horn go off, you know that that's usually a bad thing when you're a visiting team," LA Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said.
Oshie was wearing a microphone and during play the mic came unattached, falling to the ice. That's when a bizarre chain of events, which involved Regehr, led to the horn sounding.
"We got tangled up," Regehr said, "and then all of the sudden I looked down at my stick, wondering what was going on there. Here's this wireless mic wrapped to it, moving my stick around during the play.
"Eventually it fell off and went sliding toward the net. I didn't know it went in the net or anything like that. All of the sudden I heard the horn go off, and then I was looking around wondering the heck was going on."
The mic went into the goal, leading the off-ice official to believe it was the puck, therefore triggering the horn.
"Definitely a first for that," Regehr said.
I don't know who came up with the nickname "CPR" for the line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves. But I know lottery winners who have had less relatives calling them out of the blue than I've had fans telling me they came up with the catchy name.
The acronym that uses the first letter of each last name is fitting, as well as the life they infuse in the team.
"I think it's got a good ring to it," Cracknell said. "That pretty much sums up our line. We try to bring as much energy to the team any way we can. I think our physical play has been one of our best attributes for the playoff style that we want to play. Anything that we can do to get the fans into it, and our team especially, we'll do anything."
ODDS & ENDS
- The Blues are 1-9 on the power play in the series. They scored on their first opportunity, but have not converted on their last eight. The problem? "I would say 'PP' execution, which doesn't mean power play, it means something else, another two words," Hitchcock said.
- The Blues are 10-0 in their history when they lead a playoff series two games to none.