Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Set to Face Los Angeles Kings in Western Conference Finals Rematch


May 30, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) attempts a shot while defended by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) during the first period in game six of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s annual circus trip wraps-up in spectacular fashion, as the Chicago Blackhawks head to Hollywood to face the Los Angeles Kings.  This is the first time the Hawks and Kings have met since the Kings eliminated the Hawks in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals.  This should be a good one.

Tonight’s game will be played at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, and will be the first of the 3-game season series between the Hawks and Kings.  Puck-drop is set for 9:00 PM Central Time.  You can catch the game on WGN-Chicago or NHL Network, and you can hear the game on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Kings.

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Just like yesterday’s matinee with the Anaheim Ducks, the Hawks have the advantage in every category, but it is still a statistically tight matchup.  Offensively, the Hawks are on a roll and towards the top of the league and will be facing a tough, top-5 Kings defense.  Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and will be tasked with stopping the Kings’ slightly above-average offensive attack.

When it comes to Special Teams, the Hawks have a slight advantage, also.  On the Power Play, the Hawks are a bit above-average, and will have to face the similarly above-average Kings’ Penalty Kill.  The Hawks have the top Penalty Killing unit in the NHL and will be tasked with stopping the less-than-stellar Kings’ Power Play.

Possession-wise, the Hawks have a very solid advantage.  Both teams are very good in the faceoff circle, but the Hawks are slightly better.  In terms of pure puck-possession, the Hawks are far superior to the Kings.  The Hawks are elite in Corsi For Percentage, while surprisingly, the Kings aren’t too far from the bottom of the league, in CF%.

The Kings are currently sporting a 12-6-5 record, which is good for 29 points and 4th place in the Pacific Division.  It’s most likely that the Kings haven’t truly blossomed yet, but are doing good enough, for now, so that when they do finally blossom, they will take the Pacific by storm.  Surprisingly, it’s Tyler Toffoli who leads the Kings in points, with a more expected name, in Jeff Carterright behind him.  L.A seems to employ a defense-first which lends itself to their offense by committee approach.  Drew Doughty has been his usual super-human self, on the blueline, as he is near the team lead in positive puck possession, even though he more often than not starts his shifts in the Kings’ defensive zone.  Same goes for Anze Kopitar, while his point production is sort of average, at this point, he drives the puck as good as anyone.

In net, for the Kings, will likely be Jonathan Quick.  Quick has been his usual excellent self, this season, with a .932 Save Percentage, in 18 games played.

The Hawks are hitting their stride and now have a 14-8-1 record and 29 points, which has them in 3rd place in the Central Division.  Lately, the line of Brad Richards centering Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg has been unstoppable.  With 6 points in his last 5 games, Marian Hossa has been heating up, and with only 3 goals, so far on the season, expect the pucks to start finding the back of the net sooner rather than later.  Duncan Keith has quietly chipped in 15 points, in 23 games, from the blueline.  Since returning from injury, Andrew Shaw has 3 points in 2 games.

In net will likely be Corey Crawford, knowing Coach Q, on back-to-backs, especially since there will be over 24 hours between puck-drops.  Crawford has been great, this season, with a .928 Save Percentage, in 17 games played.

With another sucessful circus trip already under their belts, the Hawks look to finish it strong with a bit of revenge for the Western Conference Finals.  Get your popcorn ready.

Go Hawks!