Kings Should Beat Blackhawks in Western Conference Final

The last two Western Conference teams to win the Stanley Cup have another crack at hockey’s biggest prize starting today, with the Los Angeles Kings facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.

Chicago has been formidable for most of the abbreviated 2013 NHL campaign and, after pretty much coasting past the Minnesota Wild in the opening round in five games, showed its resiliency in Round 2 by winning three straight games, edging out the Detroit Red Wings in overtime in Game 7.

With the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford in its lineup, Chicago’s roster is the envy of any NHL general manager.

Then there’s the defending champion Kings.

Last year, Los Angeles raced through the playoffs after making the field as the West’s eighth seed. They disposed of each of their opponents in no more than six games and never trailed in any of their series.

This spring has been a little bit different.

The Kings found themselves down by two games in the opening round against the St. Louis Blues but rebounded to win four straight contests to advance. The second round against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings and their California rivals went back and forth, with the home team winning each time, as the Kings went where they hadn’t last year—a seventh game.

They made it through, thanks to two goals from Justin Williams and 25 saves from last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Jonathan Quick, in the deciding contest. They also bested San Jose netminder Antti Niemi, who had backstopped Chicago to its 2010 Stanley Cup crown.

Quick is 8-5 so far this spring, with a league-leading 1.50 GAA, .948 save percentage and three shutouts. The Kings have also been getting points by committee, with all but three skaters having put up a point through the first 13 g...

About the Author