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NHL on NBC: Kings look to sweep Blues

May 5, 2012, 12:15 AM EDT

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 03: Singer Pia Toscano sings the United States national anthem before the Los Angeles Kings take on the St. Louis Blues in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 3, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

During the regular season, Brian Elliott never gave up more than six goals over the span of back-to-back starts. He only surrendered four goals in a single game three times and he never did worse than that. Then he came up against one of the most anemic offenses during the regular season and everything began to change.

Suddenly Elliott is looking like a playoff goat after allowing nine goals in his last two starts and with Jaroslav Halak unavailable, the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending has suddenly become a problem going into Sunday’s game (3:00 pm ET, NBC). They need this issue fixed and fast, because if they don’t win all of their next four games, then their playoff run is over.

This is the second time the Los Angeles Kings have taken a 3-0 series lead. That’s a momentous feat for an eighth seed, but at this point they’ve proven that they’re no underdog.

On paper they’ve always had a good team. Los Angeles has an elite goaltender in Jonathan Quick, some great offensive threats in Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter. Throw in Drew Doughty and some nice defensive blueliners in Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, and Rob Scuderi and it’s not hard to see why they are competing.

All those pieces didn’t really come together as advertised during the regular season, but they’ve improved significantly since Darryl Sutter took over as the team’s head coach.

The challenge for the St. Louis Blues is to succeed where the Vancouver Canucks – and most other teams for that matter – have previously failed. They still have a young core complimented by experienced veterans and a great defense. They’re the type of team you could see going on a long run when they’re hot. But they have to get hot immediately, because they have run out of room for error.

Game 4 Notes:

— Elliott’s current three-game losing streak matches his longest slump during the regular season.
— The Los Angeles Kings have a perfect 5-0 road record, but they have lost one playoff game in the Staples Center.
— Mike Richards had a Gordie Howe hat trick on Thursday.
— St. Louis has been outscored 4-7 in the first period of 2012 playoff games.

  1. highlander24 - May 5, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    GO KINGS GO!!!!!!!!!

  2. elguapo12 - May 5, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Kings v Rangers. Should be good.
    Go Kings!

    – Sens Fan

  3. ron05342 - May 5, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    “Then he came up against one of the most anemic offenses during the regular season and everything began to change.”

    This is an absolutely untrue statement, because you haven’t accounted for what happened during the last quarter of the season. You haven’t done your homework on the Kings, and that is the reason why some hockey “experts” are still having a hard time grasping why they are currently going through the playoffs like a hot knife through soft butter.

    Here is their record during the last 21 games of the regular season (since Carter joined the team): 13-5-3. During one stretch in March, they won six straight games, beating the likes of Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim, Nashville, San Jose, and St. Louis. They averaged 3.1 goals per game in their last 21 games of the season, and are now averaging 3.0 goals per game in the playoffs.

    How did all this happen? You mention the obvious, of course, the stars of the team. But what you failed to grasp was that when Carter joined the team, it solidified all four lines by shifting players where they actually belonged (Stoll and Penner on the third line, for example). As a result, the third line really picked up their play, and made a huge impact, and the fourth line, for which Sutter likes to use extensively to stabilize puck possession and offensive zone time, gets more time on the ice than you will see from other teams.

    As an added bonus, players like Penner, Stoll, Lewis, and Richardson are finally playing to their potential and have really picked up their games as well. Add two big players from Manchester in King and Nolan who have also contributed and thus the freight train.

    • danphipps01 - May 5, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Huh. That’s quite the insightful analysis. I had no idea about those numbers. Very informative.

      • ron05342 - May 5, 2012 at 3:53 PM

        Thank you.

        I forgot to mention a couple of defenseman who have also made a difference in that they are coming of age: Martinez and Voynov. While Voynov has struggled a bit in the playoffs (I attribute it to rookie jitters), he had a very good rookie season…he is an active defenseman who finds the seam in the center of the ice for forward deflections on the net; I believe his teammates are just getting used to the idea that those are not shots, but passes for their benefit.

        Martinez has really played effectively for a young defenseman as well. When you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, you get what you are seeing now…the big question at this point in time is: Can they all keep this up for another two-plus series?

  4. 1trojanlove - May 5, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    As a long time kings who remembers the 93 playoffs, I am cautious not to count my chickens before they hatch! Oh that stupid curve of the stick… The Kings look great and I glad they are staying in hotels to mimic road games! GO KINGS GO!!!!

  5. blomfeld - May 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    “and it’s not hard to see why they are competing” …

    Talk about an understatement or what ? … so our LA Kings are apparently “competing” during these playoffs ! Not sure if Dadoun says that “tongue in cheek” or if he’s been intentionally provocative ? At any rate, you can call it what you like … competing, shock & awe, blitzkrieg or squashing ants. The bottom line is that the Kings are laying waste to “anything and everything” which lay in their path and there isn’t anything our detractors can do about it ! :)

    Yet, as the excellent writer “Ron” notes above, this shouldn’t be coming as such a surprise to you people. Our team is laden with talent at every position and we have the best coach in the business, bar none. You could clearly see earlier in the season that this was coming and that it was just a matter of time. I also agree with Ron that Jeff Carter was the one final ingredient, whose addition immediately turned us into the dynamo which we are today !

    GO KINGS GO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  6. proudliberal85392 - May 5, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Who’da thunk it? Go Kings!

  7. bigoldorcafromvan - May 5, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    I say it is Sutter that has turned this team around and the whole team has bought into Sutter/s plan.

  8. apatheticpoetics - May 5, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    The offense was terrible in the regular season but you never know how a team is going to perform when it really counts. And Elliot also knows he’s playing against one of the best goalies in the world. Knowing he can’t count on much goal support from his guys can have a huge effect of the mindset of a goalie.

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