The Blues have beaten the Kings the last six matchups, and outsored them 15-6 last season. Is this Jaroslav Halak's chance to bounce back?
The Blues so far have a split on their West Coast road trip, defeating the San Jose Sharks 4-2 thanks to a comeback of a third period, and getting a taste of their own medicine as the Anaheim Ducks did the same to them in St. Louis' 4-2 loss Sunday. Luckily, they're ending the trip with a game against an extremely beatable team.
The Kings, who opened the season in Stockholm and Berlin, are 2-1-1 so far on the season, but the Blues have swept them in their last six contests. Adding to the advantage for St. Louis is the fact that the Kings' star defenseman Drew Doughty is out. He went down just 24 seconds into Saturday's game against the Flyers. Jonathan Quick, the Kings' excellent starting goaltender is also easily rattled when it comes to the Blues' offense. He's started every game against St. Louis, and has an inflated 3.69 GAA against the team.
Perhaps tonight'll be a reprieve from Jaroslav Halak's skittish play. So far in four starts he is 1-3 with a .848 SV% and a 3.05 GAA. He looks easily rattled, which is a change for the usually cool-headed netminder. He's positioning himself back too far in the net, he's not able to track the puck (or keep track of it) and he's been a bit slow, like he's overthinking instead of acting on his usually strong reflexes. Against the Kings in his career Halak's had great success, going 5-0-0 with a teeny 1.20 GAA. As a member of the Blues, his GAA drops to a minuscule .67.
Contributing to Halak's issues is a penalty kill that can't get on the same page. The penalty kill, tops in the NHL as recently as two seasons ago, is last at a 66.7% effective rate. The goaltender's the last line of defense on any PK, but sometimes you have to cut him some slack and give support, and that's just not something the Blues have been able to do.
Continuing the special teams woes that the Blues are going through is their power play. They have scored just one goal on 20 chances, good for 26th in the league. When asked if it is costing the team games, Davis Payne had this to say:
"It's obvious right now. That point is here and now. We look at that every day. We know exactly what we have to work on. That's crystal clear."
Testy, no? I'm sure that it's as frustrating for Payne as it is for the fans to watch the futility that is the Blues' power play.
Puck drop's a late 9:30 tonight. I'm sure many of you are resting up for tomorrow's World Series game one match-up, but for those of you staying up for the Blues, hopefully they make it worth your while.