Most people were expecting the rematch series between the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings to be a heavy-hitting affair. Both teams feature big forwards and an in-your-face approach.
Game 1 did not disappoint. A total of 80 hits were recorded, 42 by Los Angeles, 38 by the Blues.
"That's about average for two big teams for playoff hockey," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You watch Anaheim-Detroit and for two "skating" teams, it was pretty physical, as well. That's the way it is, that's playoff hockey."
There were 59 hits in Anaheim's 3-1 victory over Detroit.Fourth line earning more time
The Blues have had outstanding play from a fourth line of Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves and Adam Cracknell. In Game 1, the threesome registered 18 hits and five shots while playing close to 10 minutes.
Two of three - Porter and Cracknell - played a large portion of the season at the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria. Likewise, Reaves played in Peoria before joining the Blues full time last season.
"We played together on and off," Reaves said. "Porter was a little higher up on the food chain, so it wasn't all the time."
That said, the three have shown great chemistry.
"I think being together in Peoria might be part of it, but we're similar types of players, we play the same way," Reaves said. "We know how each other plays and we know where each other is going to be. Hopefully, we can keep it going."
On Wednesday, Hitchcock was kicking himself for not getting his fourth line more ice time in the latter stages of the game.
"[The Kings] were in a three-line rotation, because a couple of guys weren't playing, and so we got into the three-line rotation," Hitchcock said. "And because of that, I think we looked a little worn in overtime. I needed to get that fourth line out there more often."
Blues dominate face-off dot
One reason the Blues won the battle on the scoreboard was the fact they won the battle in the face-off circles. Of the seven Blues players who took draws, six were successful more than 50 percent of the time. Only Vladimir Sobotka (47 per cent) fell short.
"We were looking to draw even, so getting above 50 per cent surprised me and that's a good sign if we can keep it going," Hitchcock said.Coaches involved in gamesmanship
Seems like there is always some gamesmanship and politics involved during a playoff series. Perhaps it started on Tuesday night when indifferent Kings coach Darryl Sutter suggested Hitchcock's postgame press conferences should be a put on a time limit.
Sutter was not happy about waiting for Hitchcock to conclude, and the L.A. skipper made it clear his postgame comments would be brief.
Then on Wednesday, the Kings elected to practice at Scottrade Center at 11 a.m. while the Blues conducted their noon skate at a practice facility in St. Louis County. The two locations are some 30-40 minutes away, which made it impossible for a third party to attend both.
The NHL dictates teams stagger their playoff practice sessions so that media is able to cover both teams.Unfamiliar territory for the Kings
The Kings never trailed in a series during last season's playoffs, jumping to 3-0 leads in each. Thus, they will find themselves in a different place when they take the ice at Scottrade on Thursday.
"I think we've been trying to approach Thursday night's game the same way that we did last year," forward Dustin Penner said. "We were taught a lesson last game in our own preparation, what needs to be better, and we have to get better to where we were last playoffs."Short on short-handed winners
Alexander Steen's shorthanded goal to decide Game 1 was the first type to decide a Stanley Cup playoff game since Fernando Pisani scored one for the Edmonton Oilers to beat Carolina in Game 5 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.
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