Sunday, the best of the west face off on their Stanley Cup quest.
Each vying for a coveted spot in the final, the last two teams to raise Lord Stanley–the Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings–are fighting for the Western Conference crown.
The Blackhawks, who took the Minnesota Wild in six games, have home ice advantage and a few days’ rest. The Kings, on the other hand, have the momentum of a 6-2 Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
The Hawks beat the Kings in five games last year, going on to defeat the Boston Bruins for the ultimate prize.
“We’re excited about coming here. We talked about this all year,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “They’re the last team to beat us in the playoffs. They’re the team that has the Cup. If we want another shot at it. We knew it was probably going to have to be down this road.”
Winger Justin Williams said the Blackhawks “had their number” last year. “But we certainly want to get back to the finals,” he added. “And to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. They’re the best right now.”
But, none of that matters now. Higher-seeded teams have already been eliminated. And, the playoffs are a whole new puck-game.
“I think it’s tough to compare year to year, even regular season to playoffs,” Brent Seabrook said. “[The Kings are] playing really well right now, so we’ve got to be focused on what they’ve been doing the last couple of series and the way they’re playing. Seems like they’re never out of a game or out of a series.
“If we’re down, we got to work like hell to get back. At the end of the day we have to focus on our game and focus on what we’ve been doing, get better at that and be the team that we can be.”
Chicago-style Hot Dogs
“Every team has those tough guys that you relish going up and playing against. Some guys are tougher than others. These two in particular are going to be really tough for our ‘D,’ our forwards, as well,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “I look forward to playing against Toews and Kane, and keeping them off the score sheet to the best of my ability.
“It’s going to be a battle, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Even the defensemen are pitching in. Seabrook (two goals, nine assists) is tied with Hossa in points.
Duncan Keith has two goals and six assists; he also has an average 27 minutes of ice time per game. Niklas Hjalmarsson is a shot-blocking machine, even without his voice–after blocking a shot with his throat in the Wild series. Plus, Hossa and Toews are among the top defensive forwards in the league.
Unfortunately, center Andrew Shaw remains out with an injury suffered after a hit in Game 1 of the Wild series.
All the Kings’ Men
Center Anze Kopitar has a stellar five goals (sixth in the league) and 14 assists (first) in the Kings’ 14-game postseason. Marian Gaborik leads the league with nine goals. He has six assists. Jeff Carter has four goals and seven assists. Justin Williams has five goals (sixth) and six assists. And, that’s just one line.
“Gaborik, the way he skates, definitely poses a threat and a problem,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp said. ” Then you have Williams, who is a great finisher. He’s got a lot of experience. He knows how to step up and play big in big games. I think they got a little bit of everything on that line. We’re going to have to be ready to play them tight, hard, physical–play our game against them.”
Doughty has one goal and eight assists (sixth in the league). Jake Muzzin has seven points.
Between the Pipes
Corey Crawford tops the league right now with a .931 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average. He’s saved-the-way for the Blackhawks through the first two rounds.
Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, on the other hand, has a .914 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average. But, just as Kane and Crawford are clutch for the Hawks, Quick epitomizes clutch for the Kings. In the six potential season-enders, Quick has a .956 save percentage.
The trouble for Chicago may come if the series reaches a Game 7, where three Kings forwards (Gaborik, Mike Richards, and Williams) now have personal 6-0 records in the playoff do-or-die games.
Williams has six goals and 12 points in Game Sevens. All three have scored goals in the games.
@LAKings And miss all the fun? See you Sunday.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) May 17, 2014
Fortunately for Chicago, the closed Round One against the Blues in six games as well as Round Two against the Wild.
Puck Drops and Other News
The winner of the Western Conference best-of-seven series will go on to play the winner of the New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers have a 1-0 series lead after beating the Canadiens in Montreal Saturday.
First comes first, the tentative schedule is as follows:
Game 1 Sun, May 18 2:00 p.m. CT United Center NBC
Game 2 Wed, May 21 7:00 p.m. CT United Center NBCSN
Game 3 Sat, May 24 7:00 p.m. CT Staples Center NBC
Game 4 Mon, May 26 8:00 p.m. CT Staples Center NBCSN
Game 5 Wed, May 28 7:00 p.m. CT United Center NBCSN (if necessary)
Game 6 Fri, May 30 8:00 p.m. CT Staples Center NBCSN (if necessary)
Game 7 Sun, June 1 7:00 p.m. CT United Center NBCSN (if necessary)
It’s sure to be an exciting matchup, Because it’s the Cup.