The Kings are moving up. They slipped into the No. 8 seed last season, won the Cup, then shimmied up to the No. 5 seed this season. Now what, win the Cup in three rounds instead of four? The Blues actually have a decent chance of upending the champs in the opening round, similar to the Caps last spring sending the Bruins home after seven games. The Blues can’t match LA’ s high-octane forwards — led by stalwarts Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Dustin Brown — but they get the job done with a vast array of dependable size 42 regulars. Five of their forwards, including Chris Stewart (36 points), finished the season with 25 points or more. Not the most artistic bunch Ken Hitchcock has worked with over the years, but the big maestro always finds ways to wring dependable production out of his crew. The addition of ex-Flames back liner Jay Bouwmeester at the trade deadline also helped. The Kings are essentially the same bunch that won the Cup, backed by former UMass goalie Jonathan Quick. If they do it again, they’ll be the first repeat Cup winners since the Wings in 1997 and ’98.
Prediction: Kings in six.