The Chicago Blackhawks have a two-game lead in the Western Conference finals following a strong back-to-back effort this weekend.
The Chicago Blackhawks were looking at a rare back-to-back to begin the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings. Chicago took advantage of the busy weekend to race out to a 2-0 series lead.
The fast turnaround favored the 'Hawks, and the Kings now find themselves on their heels because of this.
As expected, the Kings took up a physical stance against Chicago in both games. The hit totals have Los Angeles out-hitting the 'Hawks 90-74 over the weekend; however, Chicago came out of a physical weekend in far better shape than the Kings.
Mike Richards missed Game 2 after a big hit by Dave Bolland in the opener Saturday. Despite rookie Tyler Toffoli having a stellar contest Sunday afternoon, any extended absence from Richards won't help L.A. defend home ice.
Chicago was able to raise the physical intensity in the last 40 minutes of Game 2. That was after building a 2-0 lead despite being outshot in the opening period. The Blackhawks' team speed was too much for the Kings both Saturday and Sunday.
The two consecutive games also proved to be the downfall of Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick. After a stand-up performance in Chicago's 2-1 win Saturday, Quick was chased from the crease halfway through Game 2.
Four unanswered goals in the first 30 minutes put the 'Hawks in the driver's seat. Kings coach Darryl Sutter went to Jonathan Bernier for the remainder of the game. Quick will no doubt be in goal for Game 3 in Los Angeles, but he and the Kings are now operating from a two-game deficit.
Here are a few other thoughts as we leave the opening weekend in the rear-view mirror:
- Patrick Kane came up with an assist Sunday, but I'd love to see a breakout-type game from him in Game 3 Tuesday night. The opportunities were there over the weekend.
- Can we all agree that Bryan Bickell will likely be making six-to-eight times his previous salary next season, be it with the 'Hawks or elsewhere?
- Corey Crawford not only outplayed Quick this weekend but came out of his crease to help Jonathan Toews, who was being mugged by Kyle Clifford.
- If the 'Hawks defense can continue to get the puck out of their own zone as easily as they did this weekend, this is going to be a short series.
- Let's see...Colin Fraser and Clifford start a shoving match with Michal Rozsival and Toews, then the Kings get themselves a power play out of it. Hopefully those types of calls don't continue in L.A.
- Bolland hasn't played particularly well in either game. He also registered the hit of the series so far on Richards. Legal? The league seems to think so. Either way, losing Richards hurts the Kings.
- Chicago's second line has done some real damage early in this series. Even aging pickup Michal Handzus had a nice game in the second night of the back-to-back. Along with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, the line had four points in Game 2.
- Rozsival registered six hits Sunday. Along with Brent Seabrook, who scored the second goal Sunday, the 'Hawks have been able to give as good as they get on the blue line.
Game 3 should be where Sutter and the Kings respond to being a bit overwhelmed this past weekend. Taking a game against a strong home team in Los Angeles will be a challenge, but the 'Hawks are definitely in a good spot to capture a road game this week.