Categories
Parks Picks sports

Top 5: Players to Watch in the Blues/Kings Series

After tonights game seven match ups (Florida & New Jersey, New York & Ottawa), we’ll have a full schedule for the Western Conference Semifinals, including the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings. This is going to be an incredibly well-matched series (although LA won the season series 3-1), and hockey fans should enjoy the fast pace, low scoring games that are bound to ensue. While watching (on CNBC, i’m sure), I’ve got a few guys to keep an eye out for:

1. Andy McDonald, 10, St. Louis: I think it was apparent in the first round against San Jose that little McDonald (listed as 5’11…yeah, right) has quite a bit of speed. Scoring 4 goals in the first round and racking up 8 points total to lead the team, I can’t see him slowing down anytime soon. Look for him to be one of few who can get something by Jonathan Quick. Speaking of…

2. Jonathan Quick, 32, Los Angeles: That Vezina nod wasn’t a fluke – 26-year-old Quick is here to stay. His 1.95 GAA may seem in like with the Blues tender tandem, but it was through 69 games (Jaroslav Halak played 46, Brian Elliot, 38). Not to mention, he just held the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks to 8 goals in 5 games, maintaining a 1.59 GAA. He’s not your average goalie.

3. Jeff Carter, 77, Los Angeles: After a deadline deal sent former Columbus Blue Jacket Carter to LA for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick, it was apparent that what Carter needed wasn’t a big contract, but a set of line mates to help push him (Mike Richards, Dwight King). It may not have been his best year (21 G, 13A), but he hasn’t had a chance to explode in the playoffs yet. He will.

4. Scott Nichol, 12, St. Louis: Go ahead, call me crazy. Nichol is not cut out to be a first line top scorer, and he knows that. Which is why he is so solid on the fourth line. Averaging 9:19 on ice time (mind you – he’s a fourth liner!), this little guy is not afraid to make big plays in the defensive end, and is not afraid to bring the puck down the ice, regardless of who he’s facing. Plus, he’s got a little mean streak in him!

5. Brian Elliot, 1, St. Louis: I’m a firm believer in going with the hot (and healthy) hand, which is what Elliot has. With Jake Allen on the bench for games 1 and 2, Elliot can truly shine against one of the leagues finest. Between him and Quick, you can rest assured that there will not be a similar situation to that in the Philadelphia Flyers/Pittsburg Penguins series.

Who are you most excited to see this series?

Categories
Parks Picks sports

Top 5: Reasons the Blues are Contenders

Image via KSDK.com

The Blues, currently sitting at 4th Place in the West with 60 points, have had their best season to date in years. And folks, that’s not a fluke.

1. The coaching is there: Not discounting what Andy Murray and Davis Payne brought to the table, but Ken Hitchcock has truly been able to take the rains and get players to play. Halak has taken his spot back as the number one goaltender, while TJ Oshie has proven why he belongs on a top line – all with Hitchcock’s help. The early-season move was a bit unexpected, but could not have been placed at a more opportune time.

2. Home is where the heart is. The Blues have the best home record in the league at 19-3-3. That’s not a coincidence. Scottrade Center has become one of the more difficult rinks to play at, and with an ever expanding fan base (yes, even those bandwagoners), the team knows the 6th man will make a difference. That big blue bear helps, too.

3. The Central Division: Let’s not discount the fact that the Central division, with the exception of the Blue Jackets, is arguably the best division in the league. Seeing Detroit and Chicago six times a year is a challenge, as well as Vezina Trophy hopeful Pekka Rinne and the Predators. Unlike many college teams, no one can say the Blues have an “easy schedule” (14 back-to-back series this season).

4. We’re not afraid. You won’t meet another team that uses their size like St. Louis. From 6-3, 225lb. David Backes (who has it out for any man who’s ever stepped foot onto a Team Canada roster) to “5-10, 198lb” (talk about exaggeration…) Vladimir Sobotka, this is a team that knows how to play rough. The physical presence on the ice extends from forwards to defensemen, and (almost) always stays within the Shanaban rules.

5. It’s about damn time. The last playoff run the Blues had in 2001. The last cup appearance was in 1970 with Scotty Bowman as our head coach. This is a team that has been in a rebuilding phase for 5 years, and it’s time for the team to be built. This is a group of guys who want to win, and that determination will take them as far as they want to go. Hopefully, that will be at a parade on Market St.