I know D’Marco and Chris will be pretty close to pounding the panic button before the Blues and Kings play Game 2, just as they did before Game 2 against San Jose after the Note’s Game 1 loss.
Actually, there were a lot of similarities in the two first games. Both were virtually one-goal games, with the Blues allowing an empty-net goal Saturday against L.A., and both had periods of dominance by the Blues.
The Blues need to do two things in Game 2. First, they must stay out of the penalty box. In the third period, they spent eight of the 20 minutes killing penalties. Not only does that put the club at a disadvantage during the PK, but they have to expend so much energy in that endeavor, it’s more difficult to generate the offense needed to come back.
Secondly, they need to keep the Kings’ chances down. The Blues allowed 29 shots, and too many good chances. Brian Elliott was terrific. In a normal Blues game, they spend the vast majority of the game in the offensive zone. That didn’t happen in Game 1. Hopefully, Alex Pietrangelo – who is a big part of the Blues being in the offensive zone – can return sooner rather than later and help keep the pressure on Jonathan Quick.
One other note: Playoff hockey is about going to the net. The Blues’ goal came from David Backes going to the net and having the puck bounce off of him. In the second and third period, the Blues were kept on the perimeter and didn’t attack from the middle of the ice. In Game 2, they’ll have to be stout enough to stay in the middle of the ice, go to the net, and challenge Quick that way. As Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the media after Game 1, “When you play Los Angeles, there’s a price to pay to win. There’s a high price, and if we expect to win the next game, we’re going to have to pay a bigger price than the one we paid.” If they’re shooting from the point or the edge all night, Quick will pitch a shutout.
*After their curious pick of a run-defending defensive tackle in the first round, I thought the Rams adhered to the philosophy – at least positionally – that winning teams use in the last six rounds of the draft. In a league that is now about passing the ball and defending the pass, the Rams picked up two receivers, two defensive backs, two running backs, an offensive lineman, a kicker and a linebacker. If their picks click, they should be able to enhance their passing game and defend the pass better.
Sure, there are concerns. Right now, even head coach Jeff Fisher doesn’t know who his left guard or one outside linebacker is going to be. And only three of their 10 picks came from BCS automatic qualifying conferences, two from the SEC and one from the ACC.
But general manager Les Snead and his scouts are hired to evaluate talent. If you can evaluate and coach players, it doesn’t matter where they played college ball. If any fan base should know that, it’s the St. Louis fan base. Kurt Warner came from Northern Iowa, Isaac Bruce from Memphis, Marshall Faulk from San Diego State, the middle of the Greatest Show offensive line came from South Dakota State, Central Florida, and Western Michigan. And the one player from that team who’s still playing, London Fletcher, came from John Carroll. So we shouldn’t worry about where the picks came from. After my frustration of round one (I still would have liked to have seen the Rams draft Stanford guard David DeCastro), I liked what the Rams did with their final nine picks.
*As I mentioned last week, the Cardinals are like a metronome with their numbing consistency. If it wasn’t for incompetent umpiring in Chicago, the Cardinals would have taken two out of three in every series they’ve played this season. Jon Jay returned from his shoulder injury in sensational fashion, and Lance Berkman isn’t far from being back in the lineup.
The starting pitching has been phenomenal, with 17 quality starts in 22 games. I never envisioned this rotation, with Lance Lynn replacing Chris Carpenter, and the rest of the group being about 50 percent in quality starts last year, reaching that level. It may even out, but that’s a spectacular start for the Cardinals.
If they stay on this pace, the Cardinals will win 103 games. That should be enough to win the NL Central.
By the way, have you noticed the three teams at the bottom of the MLB standings? San Diego and Kansas City, which could have been anticipated, and the Angels. You needn’t express any glee over that club struggling as much as it is. I’ll take care of that for you.