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ACKERMAN: Can Blues Overcome Kings, Refs?

Tom Ackerman
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St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo(27) tries to block out the Los Angeles Kings Colin Fraser(24) in front of St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliot(1) during the first period in Game One of the Conference Semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 28, 2012.  (UPI/John Boman)

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo(27) tries to block out the Los Angeles Kings Colin Fraser(24) in front of St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliot(1) during the first period in Game One of the Conference Semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 28, 2012. (UPI/John Boman)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Memo to the NHL: Please get this one right.

Your league has so much potential.  You have young stars, an exciting product and the nation’s biggest TV markets (New York and Los Angeles) watching a possible run at a Stanley Cup (Rangers, Devils and Kings).

Don’t mess up this opportunity with horrendous officiating and decision-making.

If you don’t punish LA’s Dwight King for dangerously pushing Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo into the boards from behind on Saturday night, you’re taking a step backwards as a league.  No, wait…you’ve already done that.   By allowing referee Stephen Walkom to work a game — after he missed Raffi Torres’ shameful hit on Marian Hossa earlier in the Coyotes-Blackhawks series.

Walkom’s inexplicable non-call on Torres somehow led him to working a series in the next round of the postseason.  And now another player is down — and Pietrangelo’s injury could have been much worse.

People are calling the NHL a garage league, Gary Bettman — again.

Clean it up.  Here’s a broom.

Gutless shoves and terrible officials aside, the Blues did not play well in Game 1.  It’s time to play a consistent 60 minutes, or Ken Hitchcock’s team will be on the golf course next week.

The home club’s initial 10-minute burst fed a hungry crowd at Scottrade Center, but LA goaltender Jonathan Quick made several world-class saves to keep the game from getting out of hand.  At that point, the momentum shifted and the Kings outplayed the Blues for the rest of the night.

The intensity at 14th & Clark will be heightened in Game 2.  Let’s see if the Blues can sustain their early energy this time.

I’ll say this about Rams general manager Les Snead: he has guts.  While Jeff Fisher’s influence certainly played a factor in the Rams’ draft choices last week, it’s Snead’s job that’s on the line when it comes to scouting and drafting talent.

The Rams traded down and selected a mammoth defensive tackle (Michael Brockers) with their first-round pick.  Then they took a small-college wide receiver (Brian Quick), a talented cornerback with a checkered past (Janoris Jenkins) and a dual-threat running back (Isaiah Pead) with three more picks in the second round.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing the Rams get run over on Sundays.  Tailbacks were licking their chops the moment they stepped off the plane at Lambert.  It should be a little bit different once defensive line coach Mike Waufle develops Brockers, a 6-6, 322-pounder who moves quickly to gobble up ballcarriers in the trenches.  While he’s not fully developed as a player yet…is that such a bad thing?  I have a feeling the Rams made a good call on this one.  Brockers was a beast during his brief time as a starter at LSU.

As for Jenkins, it’s a departure from Steve Spagnuolo’s “four pillars” philosophy, where you had to be near-perfect citizen coming into the organization.  No, Fisher and the new Rams regime think they can fix a troubled young man like Jenkins, who was busted for marijuana possession and eventually went from Florida to North Alabama.

If the Jenkins pick works out, the Rams will have a physical corner with NFL-caliber ability.  The man can flat-out cover WR’s (and hit them).  If it doesn’t work out, it’s not going to look good on Fisher — and certainly not on Snead, the man responsible for the draft.

Quick and Pead?  Well, there you go, Sam Bradford.  Time will tell if they surrounded you with the right playmakers.

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