Jun 1, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) steals the puck from Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (26) during the second period in game seven of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s face it, this is probably another Western Conference Finals preview as well as a rematch, once again. The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings are doing the respective dances that they have done this time of year for the past three seasons.
The Hawks, having stockpiled tons of points due to long stretches of dominance throughout the season are now sort of going through the motions en route to the playoffs. The Kings, having not played up to their potential throughout most of the regular season have gotten hot at the right time and are likely destined to just barely make the playoffs, once again.
We shall see…
This will be the third and final regular season matchup between the Hawks and Kings. Both previous games were played in Los Angeles and each team has won one game apiece. Tonight’s game will be the first time the Hawks and Kings have met in Chicago since the Kings eliminated the Hawks in Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals(get ready to hear this factoid a lot).
Puck drop for tonight’s game is set for 7:30 PM Central Time. The game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Kings.
[table id=143 /]
Offensively, the Hawks are still a tad below average and tonight they will have to solve the top-tier Kings’ defense.
Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and will be tasked with shutting down a sub-par L.A offensive attack.
On the Power Play, the Hawks are inconsistent but overall below average and will be facing a Kings Penalty Kill that is slightly below average.
The Hawks’ Penalty Kill remains in the elite class despite missing Joakim Nordstrom and they will be up against a middling Kings Power Play.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have had great success and the Kings have been good but not at the Hawks’ level.
In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks have fallen a bit but are still a great possession team overall. Tonight, they will be fighting for the puck with a Los Angeles team that has been excellent at controlling the puck.
On paper, the Hawks hold a slight, slight advantage, but even that is arguable. The Kings might have a bit more of an edge in this game. The Kings haven’t played since Saturday and are slightly more fresh than the Hawks who just played in Winnipeg last night. While the Hawks have struggled a bit lately, they are very much safe in terms of playoff certainty.
While the Hawks have struggled a bit lately, they are very much safe in terms of playoff certainty. The Kings, on the other hand, are on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff picture. While they are likely to make it in, they are not a certainty and will likely bring an urgency and desperation into tonight’s game.
Wouldn’t it be a nice revenge if the Hawks were to have a hand in keeping the Kings out of the playoffs?
The Kings are 37-24-13 with 88 points, which has them in 4th place in the Pacific Division. Currently, they are one point behind the 3rd place Calgary Flames(who have played one more game than the Kings) for the 3rd and final playoff spot in the Pacific. The Kings are also 2 points behind the Winnipeg Jets(who have also played in one more game than the Kings) for the 2nd and final Western Conference Wild Card spot. Scary times for Kings fans
Scary times for Kings fans for sure, but in all likelihood, they will be in the playoffs when it’s all said and done.
When it comes to the Kings, it’s Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty who make this team go. Kopitar leads the Kings in points and is 10th in the league with 44 assists. It’s not just his scoring ability, but his ability to shut down opponent’s top-lines that makes him a superstar. Doughty is one of the best defenseman in the game. He is a puck mover and a defensively responsible superstar. He is the main catalyst of the Kings’ puck-possession game.
Starting in net will likely be Jonathan Quick. Quick, who was pulled from his previous start in Minnesota, is having just an okay season as evidenced by his .916 Save Percentage. In 21 career regular season games against the Hawks, Quick has a dismal .908 Save Percentage.
The Hawks are 45-24-6 with 96 points, which has them back in 3rd place in the Central Division. Currently, they are 3 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues and 6 points behind the 1st place Nashville Predators(who have played in 2 more games than the Hawks).
Hopefully, Jonathan Toews’ late-game heroics from last night will inspire and carry over to tonight’s game. They will need it. Patrick Sharp is on a point-per-game pace in the last 4 games, including last night’s goal. Brandon Saad has quietly been on a 3-game point streak. With an assist last night, Antoine Vermette broke a 6-game pointless streak.
Starting in net for the Hawks will either be Corey Crawford or Scott Darling. Crawford played just last night and could very well be given the night off in favor of Darling, but this is sort of a big game.
We shall see…
Hopefully, the Hawks can feed off of last night’s dramatics and keep it rolling, all the way through the Kings at least. Moving up in the Central is still there too.