Apr 30, 2013, 12:32 PM EDT
1. Can Jonathan Quick rediscover his Conn Smythe Trophy form?
If April was any indication, yes.
While Quick’s overall numbers on the year weren’t stellar — 18-13-4, .902 save percentage, 2.45 GAA — his stats in the final month suggest he’s rounding into form.
The 27-year-old went 6-3-1 in April, posting a 2.25 GAA and, perhaps most importantly, a .917 save percentage.
The bigger question, though, will be if Quick can put together a string of consecutive efforts, something he accomplished last postseason but has had problems doing this year (Quick’s longest winning streak was three games, and he only did it once.)
2. Can the Blues score enough goals?
St. Louis finished 17th in the NHL in goals per game (2.58), but struggled to score in April. That included a stretch where the Blues notched just seven regulation goals in seven games…but they went 5-2-0 over that same stretch, alleviating some concern.
The playoffs, though, are a different beast.
Teams don’t have success if they’re not producing offensively — something St. Louis learned the hard way against the Kings last year, scoring just six times during a four-game sweep out of the second round.
This year, the offensive x-factor is TJ Oshie, who underwent stress fracture surgery (ankle) two weeks ago.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock says Oshie will be ready to go, and that’s key for St. Louis’ offensive outlook. The 26-year-old had 20 points in 30 games this year and led the Blues in power-play assists, with eight.
3. Elliott or Halak?
This year, Brian Elliott‘s the No. 1.
And with good reason. The 28-year-old was the league’s hottest netminder in April, capturing second star of the month on the strength of an 11-2-0 record, 1.28 GAA and .948 save percentage.
Of course, things can change quickly in the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if Halak makes an appearance at some point, especially since he’s the more experienced postseason netminder, having backstopped Montreal to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010.
4. Who wins the physical battle?
The term “meat grinder” has been used to describe this series.
Both teams love to get in on the forecheck and punish opposing defensemen, so the battle could be decided by which blueliners are able to withstand the punishment.
5. How much will the Kings miss Willie Mitchell?
Mitchell was an underrated piece of Los Angeles’ 2011-12 success. He scored a career-high 24 points during the regular season and shouldered a huge workload in the playoffs, averaging 25:19 TOI per game through 20 contests.
Only Drew Doughty played more minutes.
Mitchell’s loss will especially be felt most in two important playoff departments: penalty killing (he averaged a team-high 3:41 shorthanded TOI per game) and shot-blocking (led the Kings with 55).
LA will hope the void can be filled by trade deadline acquisition Robyn Regehr, but that might be asking a lot from a guy that hasn’t participated in the postseason since 2008.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:18 PM EDT
He’s scored in every New Jersey game since the Olympics.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
That’s on top of all the talent they traded away.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT
Can Johan Franzen maintain his incredible post-Olympics pace?
Mar 9, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
The 21-year-old is making the transition from the KHL.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT
It helped lead St. Louis to its fourth straight win.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Buffalo hasn’t been so bad lately, despite what the team looks like on paper.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
They both desperately need every point they can get.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:09 AM EDT
A much-needed victory for Vancouver.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
Short ones on Saturday.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT
Roberto Luongo: quiet, so far.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT
Tyler Seguin is just on fire right now.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:09 PM EDT
Dallas scored once on the resulting five-minute major penalty.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT
Seeding battles heat up.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT
Jaroslav Halak wins in his Washington debut.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
He scored the game-winner for New Jersey against Carolina.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:53 PM EDT
A solid Saturday for the Sens.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT
His No. 9 ascends to the rafters.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:11 PM EDT
His latest acquisitions Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick are set to debut Saturday.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
Sounds like he’ll take his talents to Europe instead.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT
He was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis earlier this month.
- NHL on NBCSN: Hawks know they can’t take Sabres lightly 4
- NHL on NBC: Red Wings, Rangers fight to cling onto playoff spots 2
- Video: Flames score center-ice goal against Canucks’ Lack 16
- Stars believe Lehtonen suffered concussion from Haula collision (update) 20
- Video: Stars retire Mike Modano’s jersey 11
- Rostislav Klesla passes on joining Sabres organization following trade 12
- Ryan Murray has knee surgery, likely done for season 1
- Washington finally signs top prospect Kuznetsov 33
- Roberto Luongo records the shutout in first game back with Panthers 31
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack 66
- Canucks trade Luongo to Panthers (93)
- BLOCKBUSTER: Lightning trade St. Louis to Rangers for Callahan (82)
- Kings make splash, acquire Gaborik from Columbus (72)
- Report: Canucks want center, top prospect and first-rounder for Kesler (68)
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack (66)