I’m a believer that it’s really difficult to carry momentum from game to game in a Stanley Cup playoff series, especially if it means carrying that momentum from your home ice to your opponent’s. That being said, I’m not so sure the Blues need home ice or momentum to beat the Kings in this first-round series.
The Blues may simply be the better team right now. Does that mean the Blues will sweep or win in five? Not by a long shot. I still think this is going to be a long series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if L.A. won both games at Staples Center. But the Blues have shown me in the first two games that their smothering defense led by goalie Brian Elliott and their timely scoring from late in the season aren’t a fluke.
I said in “The Fast Lane” on Thursday that the Blues needed a goal from their defense, singling out Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Lo and behold, it came from the longest-tenured Blue, Barret Jackman, who scored his first playoff goal in 23 games.
I said the line of Patrik Berglund, David Perron and T.J. Oshie needed to step up. Boy, did they ever. Not only did Berglund get the first goal on a feed from Pietrangelo and Perron, but the line combined for two points, four shots, nine hits and four takeaways. They were the best Blues line on the ice.
Elliott was sensational, turning aside 28 of 29 Kings shots and allowing their only goal on a two-man advantage. (It was a deflection on which he had absolutely no chance.) So far in the series, Elliott has faced 54 shots and stopped 52 of them, and both goals have been scored on deflections.
Oh, and about Jackman: I spent much of Wednesday defending him. This is the fifth Blues coach who has really liked him, and he remains a steady, rugged performer. He had a puck go off his stick in Game 1 – which happened to Bobby Orr and Larry Robinson and Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis. Not to compare Jackman to those guys, but he’s a smart, gritty player who thrives on being in the game in tough situations. It was awesome to see him get the game-winner and put the Blues up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Can the Kings bounce back? Of course they can. They bounced the Blues from the playoffs with a four-game sweep last year. But these are two different teams. If the Kings win this series, it won’t be because they’re significantly better than the Blues. It’ll be for another reason. Because the Blues can go toe-to-toe with L.A. or any other team in the league right now. The Blues are that good.