The St. Louis Blues have not had the best of luck against the Los Angeles Kings recently. While they did not need to in 2015-16, it might still do the Blues good to exercise those ghosts.
The St. Louis Blues have had a complicated recent past with the Los Angeles Kings. Since the decade changed, the Kings became a regular kryptonite for the Blues.
Much of it has to do with Jonathan Quick. For whatever reason, he has been a thorn in the side of the Blues for the last several years.
Quick can be made to look foolish against any other team. However, when he suits up against the Blues, he seems to always bring his A game.
That was never more evident than the two playoff series played in 2012 and 2013. The Blues might as well have been shooting at a brick wall, it was so hard to beat Quick at those times.
Add to that, the Kings being good enough to win the Cup and make the conference finals in those years and it doesn’t add up for Blues’ success.
The Kings are not an incredibly old team, but like the Sharks, they are in win-now mode. Whether they can rebound from a first round loss last season will be up to them.
The Los Angeles Kings were quite busy in the offseason. Whether they made themselves any better is the question.
Purcell actually started his career with the Kings. After appearing to be a little bit of a bust, he had some career years with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was downhill from there though. He’s never been a bad player, by any means, but his production was very middle of the road, especially in Edmonton.
Zatkoff was brought in to give the Kings a few more options in net. Quick is obviously the starter, but whether Zatkoff is the defacto backup or battling with Peter Budaj is up to the Kings’ staff.
Zatkoff spent the last three years in Pittsburgh, but only saw a handful of games. He filled in very well as Matt Murray’s backup when Marc-Andre Fleury went out with injury.
Gilbert is little more than an aging defenseman the Kings are trying to use as a body to fill a gap. They have been searching for answers since losing some key blueliners over the last few seasons, but Gilbert is unlikely to be the one to fill that void.
Jhonas Enroth is now with the Toronto Maple Leafs. When you have Quick in net, it’s not a huge loss to have backups leave. Still, the Kings have been bleeding backup goaltenders for what feels like years.
In addition to being backups, Martin Jones, Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier have all been the goalies of the future the past four years. All are on different teams now. You wonder if the carousel of backups catches up to the team.
Also gone is Milan Lucic. After a few diminishing returns in Boston, Lucic seemed like he had found a home with the Kings.
He fit their style. Their game needed him. It should have been a marriage.
However, the term and dollars did not add up for the Kings. Now Lucic is in Edmonton, trying to be the veteran leader on a team of highly skilled, but very green players.
The Kings missed the playoffs in 2014-15, one season after winning it all. They lost in the first round last season.
None of that bodes well for another championship run in 2016-17. That doesn’t mean it cannot happen.
The Kings still have a highly varied lineup with skill, skaters, scorer and role players. They have a decent mix of veterans and youth.
The problem for Los Angeles is they don’t have the room to add pieces. If there is something missing, they will have to give up a lot to get it.
Right now, the Kings have a little over half a million in cap space. They are weighed down by some long contracts to aging players that will likely be hard to ditch.
Add to that a little turmoil and it’ll be an interesting year. Dustin Brown was stripped of his captaincy and was not hesitant to let people know his frustration.
Whether Darryl Sutter can smooth all the wrinkles out in time for the playoffs will be a task.
Still, on paper, the Kings are still one of the three best teams in the Pacific. It seems unlikely anyone in that division has made enough improvements to unseat them.
The Kings did have 95 points the year they missed though. So, stranger things could happen.
The Blues have seen such a mixed bag with the Kings of late. The Kings dominated in the playoffs, sweeping the Blues the first year and winning 4-2 the next.
The regular season has been a bit better, but not much. The Blues won two of three last year, but had lost two of three two years in a row prior to that.
Add in just one regular season win between 2011-12 and 2012-13 and it has been a thin decade to this point.
All in all, the Blues still have the edge in the series. 110-82-22 is the overall split between the two.
It won’t be too long before these two battle it out again. The Kings come to town on Saturday, October 29.
The Blues begin a west coast swing with a game in LA on Thursday, January 12. St. Louis then goes back out west, starting with the Kings, on Monday, March 13.
The Blues typically don’t play well in Los Angeles. Their win last season was the first since 2011.
Two games out west isn’t the best of ideas, but it’s what the Blues have to deal with. Another 2-1 record this season would be a very good result.