Playoff Picks: Blues vs. Kings. This is the series.

Take that.

Biased? Yes. Reasonable? Also yes. Like most of the remaining playoff teams, the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings have reputations for being stingy defensively, creating low-scoring games (at least vs. one another). But I think this might produce the Cup winner and regardless will be the best-played, most entertaining of the four conference semifinal series.

As regular readers know, I am quite partial to the Blues. But suffering with them for decades (yes, I sure know how to pick my teams), I'm also realistic about when they are bad. Right now, they are most certainly not bad. And they may frustrate the hell out of opponents, but it is not in a passive, choke-the-middle-and-wait kind of way.

Ken Hitchcock said something that I think illustrates my point:

"[It] ticks me off when people say St. Louis is a defensive team or Los Angeles is a defensive team," Hitchcock said. "We're a defensive team because we both work like crazy on the forecheck. We make you spend time in your zone where you don't want to be."

Former Blues star and coach Brian Sutter used to say hard work is a skill and if it is, consider the Blues and Kings extremely skillful.

"That whole thing makes me kind of sick ... both teams play good defense because we forecheck like hell," Hitchcock said. "We forecheck like hell, they forecheck like hell and then when you listen to teams say 'Well, they don't give you any offense,' or 'You can't get any offense.'... You can't get any offense because you're stuck in your own zone against us (and the Kings)."'

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2012/04/26/2156249/pietrangelo-doesnt-make-norris.html#storylink=cpy

Watch this series. Stay up late when necessary. You'll be glad you did. These teams play hockey well and match up very interestingly. It will be like vs. like, with the likely exception that Jonathan Quick is more of a game-stealer in goal.

I already dug in superficially in that preview for the SB Nation NHL hub, so I'll just expand on one thing relevant to Islanders fans.

Over the past few years, I'd occasionally get the query from Isles fans, noticing the teams' thin depth at defense, wondering if the (at the time) D-rich Blues would part with Alex Pietrangelo. I always answered with an emphatic "No."

As you saw, they parted with 1st-overall pick Erik Johnson (and Eric Brewer and David Rundblad too), but there was no way they were giving up Petro. He was part of that golden trio of defensemen atop the 2008 draft with Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian (no, Luke Schenn was not in that group then nor is he in that group now), but he is the one who was brought along with the most patience.

He's not an official Norris finalist this year, but he very well could've been. You already know how good Doughty is, but Pietrangelo might yet prove to be as good or better than Doughty (who knows, we'll see).

Anyway, if you watch this series, I think you'll see why. Hopefully no one gets hurt.

Pick 'em

You know how this works. Vote in the poll and leave a comment on your rooting interests or rationale. Like so:

Head Says: Blues in seven. A marathon. Hope the survivor is healthy enough for the next two rounds.

Heart Says: Blues in four. 'Cause I am, literally, a homer.

Note: If you are partial to the Kings, don't hold back just because of me.

P.S.: If you are partial to the Kings, just go away.

P.P.S.: Not really. Seriously, this series should be fun. Enjoy.

TV Schedule (all times Eastern Daylight Time)

Saturday, April 28, 2012 7:30 p.m. Los Angeles at St. Louis NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Monday, April 30, 2012 9:00 p.m. Los Angeles at St. Louis CNBC, TSN, RDSI
Thursday, May 3, 2012 10:00 p.m. St. Louis at Los Angeles NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Sunday, May 6, 2012 3:00 p.m. St. Louis at Los Angeles NBC, TSN, RDS
*Tuesday, May 8, 2012 TBD Los Angeles at St. Louis CNBC, TSN, RDSI
*Thursday, May 10, 2012 TBD St. Louis at Los Angeles TBD, TSN, RDS
*Saturday, May 12, 2012 TBD Los Angeles at St. Louis TBD, TSN, RDS
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