Western Conference Finals Preview

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A sneak peek at the Kings vs the Champs.

3) Chicago Blackhawks (8-4) vs 3) Los Angeles Kings (8-6)

Series Schedule

Game 1

Sunday, May 18

2PM CDT

Los Angeles at Chicago

NBC

Game 2

Wednesday, May 21

7PM CDT

Los Angeles at Chicago

NBCSN

Game 3

Saturday, May 24

7PM CDT

Chicago at Los Angeles

NBC

Game 4

Monday, May 26

8PM CDT

Chicago at Los Angeles

NBCSN

Game 5

*Wednesday, May 28

7PM CDT

Los Angeles at Chicago

NBCSN

Game 6

*Friday, May 30

8PM CDT

Chicago at Los Angeles

NBCSN

Game 7

*Sunday, June 1

7PM CDT

Los Angeles at Chicago

NBCSN

Regular Season Results

Date

Tm

Opp

Result

2/3/2014

CHI

@

LAK

W 5-3

12/30/2013

CHI

LAK

W 1-0

12/15/2013

CHI

LAK

W 3-1

Playoff Scoring Leaders

CHI

LAK

P

Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook 11

P

Anze Kopitar, 19

G

Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell 6

G

Marian Gaborik, 9

A

Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook 9

A

Anze Kopitar, 14

Goalie Matchup

Corey Crawford (8-4, .931 save %, 1.97 GAA, 1 SO) vs Jonathan Quick (8-6, .914 save %, 2.72 GAA, 1 SO)

The Los Angeles Kings have had two separate three game losing streaks in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs and yet here they are.  Los Angeles has faced elimination six times already and have won all six games. The Kings have made the Western Conference Finals for the third straight year, but the problem is they have drawn the Blackhawks two years in a row.

The Blackhawks outscored the Kings 9 to 4 on their way to sweeping the regular season series.  They beat up on Jonathan Quick, scoring five times in the only game he started. But much like the Minnesota Wild in the previous round, this is not the same Kings team the Hawks dispatched in five games last year.  The Kings are the highest scoring team in the playoffs averaging 3.21 goals per game.  This a far cry from the 2.42 G/G during the regular season and the 2.06 G/G during last year's playoffs.  When the Kings won the Cup in 2012, they got a boost by making a deadline deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jeff Carter.  So far they have gotten the same results by acquiring Marian Gaborik in another deadline trade with the BJ's. Gaborik leads all players win nine goals in the playoffs.  His center, Anze Kopitar, has 14 assists and his 19 points paces the NHL.  Getting to watch two thirds of the Selke finalists, Kopitar and Jonathan Toews, go head to head is going to be amazing.

The Kings have had some injuries to their blue line with veterans Willie Mitchell and Robin Rehger both missing time throughout the playoffs.  Their top pairing of Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin lead the team with identical 56.7 CF%.  I would expect to see Darryl Sutter do everything he can to get Doughty on the ice for as many of Patrick Kane's shifts as he can.

Jonathan Quick has been streaky during his playoff run.  His save percentage and goals against average are significantly higher in the post season than they were in the regular season.   He has been great when his team is facing elimination, but the problem is he keeps putting his team in situations where they face said elimination.  Corey Crawford keeps stacking up playoff wins, none more impressive than stealing the series clinching win in St. Paul last Tuesday night.  Both goaltenders have been able to bounce back from less than stellar performances and will provide us some great saves all series long.

The Blackhawks penalty kill has been phenomenal this postseason, killing off 91.3% of their penalties.  The Kings' penalty kill unit has been used a league high 56 times and has only killed off 83.9% of their penalties.  The Kings have scored 11 power play goals, the most of the conference finalists, so the Hawks PK will need to be up to the task.

The Blackhawks have been really good at shutting down their opponent's top players making TJ Oshie, Alex Steen, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise virtually invisible.  If they can continue this trend against the Kings' top six, the Hawks can look forward to not touching the Campbell Bowl again.  The Hawks will get a nice advantage by having the Kings on their home ice less than 40 hours after beating the Ducks while they have been off for the last four days.  I have already seen a lot of Kings' fans complain about the scheduling, but if you want more time off in the playoffs win the series in six.  The "X factor" of this series could be Patrick Sharp.  If he isn't hurt and can break out of his slump with one of those patented four game stretches where he is unstoppable, this series could be over early. In the end I think the fatigue of playing back to back seven game series and the depth of the Blackhawks will be too much for the Kings to overcome.  Because I am sensing a theme in this year's playoffs, Hawks in six.

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