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Pick 'em Poll: St. Louis Blues (4) vs. L.A. Kings (5)

Two of the top possession teams in the league revisit last year's second-round sweep.

Roman Polak is neither Roman nor Polish. Discuss.
Roman Polak is neither Roman nor Polish. Discuss.

Lighthouse Hockey is an Islanders-focused site, but we have an annual tradition of polling our readers to pick each playoff series. No reason to dispense with this tradition just because the Islanders have put us in the suddenly unfamiliar position of watching playoff series that actually involve them.

The St. Louis Blues, whose bottom-out-and-rebuild process began a few seasons before the Islanders', stormed through 2011-12 and absolutely dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first round.

Then they ran into the Los Angeles Kings, who swept them and dominated everyone else in their path to the Stanley Cup.

If you're an Islanders fan bummed that the final weekend of the season positioned them to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, you can lend a sympathetic ear to Blues fans who saw their team finish the season on a 9-3 run and were rewarded with ... the Kings again.

Home ice advantage doesn't matter; the Blues had that last year. Being one of the league's best possession teams doesn't matter; the Kings are even better (the best, actually) by that metric. Brian Elliott's late-season resurrection (how many can one man's career have?) doesn't matter; he had a Jennings-level season last year before the Kings exposed him in the second round.

Blues-patch1_medium La-mid_medium

Season Series: L.A. 3-0-0 (Shots: 92-58)

Since I watch this team a lot, and since I've seen the Blues lose to the Kings eight straight times, my own hybrid stats-and-eyes view is this: The Blues are an outstanding team and have nearly as good a case to knock off the champs as anyone, but it's a match they've yet to figure out. Generally, the Kings have that ever-desirable combination of skill and size to physically wear opponents down.

As one microcosmic example, last year Dwight King knocked Alex Pietrangelo out of the game and hindered him for the series with a borderline hit. On a routine play, the Kings bottom-sixer knocked out the Blues' top defenseman.

Oh, and also: The Blues goaltending is completely untrustworthy and might even be one reason some Blues players aren't always checked "on." You know how having a bad or unsupportive boss makes you wonder why you bother trying? Well, playing in front of a bad or unreliable goalie can have a similar deflationary effect. The position is simply too important. It's hard to go full tilt 100% of the time when you see how all efforts can go for naught because of mistakes by the most important guy on the ice.

Anyway, Blues GM Doug Armstrong thinks the goaltending issue had more to do with the team play, which is also a familiar concept for Isles fans.

Separate from that, and just because: Fun little perspective tweet from Blues winger David Perron, after Andy Strickland suggested the 48-game schedule wasn't much of a grind because players prefer games to practices anyway:

For the Kings, this is a beatable opponent, but it's one that's liable to wake up and figure them out one of these days. If they win, it could still be a lengthy, physical series which could hurt if their second-round opponent is another top seed.

Series schedule:

Game Date Matchup Time (ET) National TV
Game 1 Tue, Apr 30 Kings at Blues 8 p.m. CNBC, CBC
Game 2 Thu, May 2 Kings at Blues 9:30 p.m. CNBC, CBC
Game 3 Sat, May 4 Blues at Kings 10 p.m. NBCSN, CBC
Game 4 Mon, May 6 Blues at Kings 10 p.m. NBCSN, CBC
Game 5* Wed, May 8 Kings at Blues TBD CBC
Game 6* Fri, May 10 Blues at Kings TBD CBC
Game 7* Mon, May 13 Kings at Blues TBD CBC

Jewels From The Crown has great Kings coverage, while St. Louis Game Time serves you up the perspectives of the monogamous Blues fan.

And who do you have in this one?

LHH Playoff Pool

You'll see this in the other playoff poll posts, but Mark set up a pool (no money involved, this is Communist LHH remember) like last year for everyone to make their full playoff picks, for all four rounds. Bonus for getting upsets right. No actual prizes -- this is just for fun. Link and full details here.