LA Kings: Struggling St. Louis Blues special teams not to be overlooked

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

For the first time in the 2021 season, the LA Kings will take their game on the road – a two-game set in both St. Louis and Minnesota. On paper and based on how competitive the Kings were in their first four games, there’s no reason to believe that they cannot at least split the upcoming four games.

Los Angeles is coming off an emotional, thrilling comeback victory over the Stanley Cup-favorite Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Lineup changes worked favorably for Todd McLellan’s group, with Adrian Kempe moving up to the team’s first line and Mikey Anderson up to the first pairing with Drew Doughty.

In the 19-20 season, the Kings lost both games to the Blues with three-goal deficits separating the score in the two games. St. Louis is two years removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup, and they added former Panthers winger Mike Hoffman for this season.

The Blue also replaced captain Alex Pietrangelo with Torey Krug this offseason, but the team has yet to record a power play goal. Statistically, their 0-for-14 on the man advantage is the worst mark in the National Hockey League. Krug and Hoffman have historically been outstanding on the power play, but neither has yet to record a point.

Blues head coach Craig Berube already demoted Hoffman to the team’s second power play unit and the team’s third line, as he looks to find his footing. In Wednesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, Hoffman was moved up to the second line, but he has taken just five shots in three games. Both he and Krug have taken some time adjusting to their new surroundings.

On the flip side, the Blues have killed off just 61.9 percent of their penalties, allowing a league-high eight goals on 21 opportunities. The LA Kings have had their struggles staying out of the penalty box this season, too, but, for the most part, they have done well killing off penalties.

“Things have got to get better,” Berube said after practice on Friday. “We have to get keep getting better. We have to clean the penalties up, for sure. You know, the power play needs to score or even create momentum for us. We have to be a harder team to play against.”

The Blues’ top defensive pairing of Krug and Colton Paryko have struggled to gel, similar to the LA Kings’ top pairing in Drew Doughty and Olli Maatta. Alex Pietrangelo accounted for 16 of the 18 power play goals on the team’s top pairing last season, so a dropoff was expected, as Krug has proven to be a much better facilitator than a scorer.

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That said, the Kings cannot approach the Blues special teams’ struggles lightly. Eventually, St. Louis will get better in that department.