Dec 30, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) steals the puck from Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards (10) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
No, this is not a a preview for the 2013 Western Conference Finals, between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings. Even with all the crazy bounces, randomness, and wacky variables of the 82-game NHL regular season, and 2 rounds of best-of-7 game playoff series, both the Hawks and Kings find themselves back in the Western Conference Finals, for the 2nd year in a row.
Last year, the Hawks easily dispatched the Kings, in 5 games, en route, to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Don’t expect the same result, this year.
The Hawks may very well win this series, but the Kings are about as likely to win, as well. You can bet that this series won’t be easily wrapped up, in 5 games, by either team.
Here’s how both teams have played, throughout the post-season.
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Statistically, the Kings look to have the upper-hand, in this series, but it is very close. It is interesting to note that the Kings had an anemic 2.42 Goals For, during the regular season, while leading the NHL in Corsi For Percentage. It appears that the Kings have found a way to continue to drive puck-possession while fixing their goal scoring troubles. This could be trouble, for the Hawks, but the Hawks are the Hawks, and they haven’t exactly been slouches, this post-season.
The Kings have suffered 3-game losing streaks, in each of their previous playoff series, this post-season. Miraculously, they have been able to fight and claw their way to the Western Conference Finals, for the 3rd straight season. The hard-fought natures of their 1st two playoff series brings up the question of fatigue, for the Kings. Their offensive surge has been powered by trade deadline acquisition, Marian Gaborik, who has 9 goals and 15 points, in 14 post-season games. Gaborik’s centerman and Selke candidate, Anze Kopitar, leads the team, in points, with 19(!), in 14 playoff games. The Kings’ captain, Dustin Brown has off and on offense, that has mostly been off, this year. However, Brown will make his presence felt, and may be even borderline dirty, on the ice. Defenseman, Drew Doughty is one of the best, in the NHL. He holds a 56.7% Corsi For Percentage and can move the puck, with the best of them.
In net, for the Kings, will be Jonathan Quick. The all-world Quick has had a streaky post-season, but is always able to rise to the occasion, when needed to.
The Blackhawks have had plenty of time to rest, and clear their heads, and will need to take advantage, of the tired Kings, during Game 1. Game 1 is a must win, for the Hawks, since this will be their easiest chance to win a game, this series. The Kings have had less rest and will be playing, in Chicago. If the Hawks lose this one, they could be in trouble. Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook currently lead the team, in points, with 11, this post-season. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews both have 10 points, a piece, and also have their fair-share of clutch goals, during the playoffs. Duncan Keith will have to drive the offense, against a stingy L,A. defensive department. Andrew Shaw was said to be ready, for Game 1, even though he hasn’t practiced, since Game 1, of the last series.
In net, for the Hawks, will be Corey Crawford, for the Hawks. Crawford has been excellent, during the playoffs, and has stolen a few games, for the Hawks.
Game 1 kicks off the series before the big series. One thing at a time, though this isn’t last year’s Kings team. If the Hawks expect an easy series, they may very well get swept. That is very unlikely, though.