Breakdown: Blues vs. Kings
Records: Kings 27-16-5, Blues 29-17-2
Season series: Los Angeles won 3-0-0 (1-0-0 home; 2-0-0 road)
Playoff history: St. Louis leads 2-1
Last meeting: 2012, Los Angeles won Western Conference Semifinals 4-0
Leading scorers: Anze Kopitar, Kings (10-32-42); Chris Stewart, Blues (18-18-36)
Skinny: The Los Angeles Kings open defense of their Stanley Cup against one of their victims from last spring. But while the Kings finished fifth in the West rather than eighth, as they did last season, they've had their ups and downs -- including a marked difference in the play of goaltender Jonathan Quick at home and on the road. Jeff Carter's 26 goals have given the Kings an offensive spark -- they averaged about half a goal more than they did last season. But Quick's numbers are way down from last season, especially on the road. Including last spring's sweep, the Kings have won eight in a row against the Blues.
St. Louis closed the season on a roll, going 11-2-0 in April behind the goaltending of Brian Elliott, who was 3-6-1 before allowing 16 goals in the Blues' 13 games this month. The Kings shredded him last spring after Jaroslav Halak was injured; he got to play down the stretch because Halak was hurt again. Chris Stewart has bounced back with a career season, but he was one of only three Blues to reach double figures in goals. Alex Pietrangelo is a premier defenseman.
Both teams play a grinding game that figures to limit chances; they are second and third in fewest shots allowed. The winner figures to be the one that gets the better goaltending -- Quick and Elliott both finished with below-average save percentages that belie their goals-against averages.