That was a weird one, wasn't it? The Blues dominated long stretches of Game 1, earning countless chances against the Los Angeles defense. If it weren't for Jonathan Quick, the Kings might have dropped Game 1 by a hefty margin. Ironically, the same man that kept the Kings in the game for 60 minutes also was the one responsible for Alexander Steen's game-winning OT goal.
Quick played an incredible game ... until OT. Let's back up a tad. The Blues had 36 shots in regulation compared to LA's 19. The Blues came in waves, dominating the flow of the game and forcing Quick to make some truly ridiculous saves. He rose to the challenge, showing why he was such a key factor in LA's playoff run one year ago.
Things looked a bit grim as the Blues failed to bury their chances and then let LA back into the game late in the third. The Kings were riding a wave of momentum in OT after they leveled the score with just 32 seconds left in regulation. All signs were pointing to a big LA victory in OT on the road. When Kevin Shattenkirk was deemed guilty of a high-stick and LA took to a lengthy four-minute power play, Blues fans braced for the worst.
Then something funny happened.
The Blues dumped the puck in. Harmless, right? Quick went behind his net to retrieve it as the rest of the Kings prepared for a rush up the ice. There was just one problem - Alexander Steen was in to pressure Quick's pass and Quick choked, coughing the puck up. Steen pounced and wrapped the puck into the empty net.
Game over. Blues lead one game to zero.
Thanks to SB Nation for pouncing on the overhead GIF.
If I wasn't such a Blues fan I might feel bad for Quick. For the bulk of this game he appeared to be the only King that came out to play. He stopped 40 of 42 shots. That stat is a bit misleading as one of the shots he set up and wasn't even in the net to stop. It was an extremely impressive game for the goaltender and the Blues should learn that they need to capitalize on their chances or LA might weasel back into the game.
What can we take away from this game? For starters, the Blues are a different squad than they were one year ago. They play a more physical, more intense game that can torment the Kings. The fourth line continually proved that they could hold the puck within LA's zone, dishing out hit after hit on any King that strayed too close to the boards. The Blues of 2011-12 failed to rise to the challenge. They played scared hockey against the Kings. That's not the case this time around. The Blues could have easily packed it in when they took to the four-minute PK. Instead, they kept pressing and it led to a gift from Quick.
The Blues shouldn't make too big of a deal out of this win. It's huge to take Game 1, but it's important to keep your guard high for Game 2. LA should come out faster and stronger than they did in Game 1. The Blues will have to take what worked from Game 1 and sharper it for Game 2. It's doubtful the Blues will receive another gift quite as nice as Quick's.
Let's Go Blues!
Thanks to the awesome crew at ThePensBlog for this one!
Here are the two big differences from last year's Blues/Kings series to this, at least in my eyes:
1) Healthy goaltending. I know Ells doesn't want to use the ear infection as an excuse. Good for him. But trying to face down the eventual Cup winner when not on top of your game? That's a rough road to travel for sure. Add in the fact that it was obvious to anyone with a couple functioning brain cells to rub together that Halak couldn't possibly come in to save him when things got out of hand, as the two did several times during the regular season, and it was a recipe for just the result that happened. A healthy Elliott, back on his game, makes a huge difference in this series all by himself (with a healthy helping of team defense, of course).
2) The fourth line. I know I've already said a few times this year that Reaves and Cracknell are vying for the name and number spot on my next Blues jersey. See tonight for plenty of reasons why they, along with Porter, are making a difference pretty much every shift out there. Reaves annihilating opponents with multiple hits a shift, Porter's speed and enough of a shot to be a credible threat, and Cracknell's tenacity and strength on the puck keep shining through. Last year, it was always up to the Backes/Oshie/X line to generate those big momentum shifts in big games when the fourth line minutes dropped. This year, even in clearly limited time, the fourth line continually makes its presence felt, and they did it again tonight.
Now, if the boys can just do something about that abysmal shooting percentage on quality scoring chances, or at least bang one or two in on the scrambles, maybe the rest of this series won't keep trying to take years off my life.
@miendiem The 4th line is playing out of its mind. The ability to throw a hit without losing your positioning one the ice is incredible. That must take an insane amount of coordination, communication and familiarity with your teammates. Arguably, they're the best 4th group in the NHL. For my money, easily playing the best 4th line of hockey of any team in the playoffs.
That shooting percentage...yikes. Especially in the high % areas, the Blues seem to be targeting the logo or the boards.
@David Rogers On shooting percentage, too, when was the last time the Blues popped in a scrum goal? Because they had a bunch of net-front scrum chances last night and didn't capitalize on a single one. At some point, don't you just have to luck into bouncing one off a skate or the goalie's pad or something?