Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Preview and Prediction for Game 2

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterMay 20, 2014

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History is repeating itself in an eerily similar way in this series.

Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Los Angeles Kings in the conference final in five games. The Blackhawks won Game 1 at the United Center by a 2-1 count off a second-period shot by Duncan Keith that was deflected by Marian Hossa and past Jonathan Quick.

On Sunday, the Blackhawks won Game 1 at the United Center by a 3-1 count off a second-period shot by Duncan Keith that was deflected by Trevor Lewis and past Jonathan Quick.

The outcomes aren't twins, but they are at least first cousins.

The Kings lost Game 2 last year to fall into a 2-0 series hole, so they'll try to avoid a sequel of this movie.


When: May 21, 8 p.m. ET

Where: United Center, Chicago



Kings' Top Storylines

Can They Get off to a Better Start?

It certainly didn't cost them the game, as it took nearly 15 minutes for Brandon Saad to open the scoring in Game 1, but the Kings looked like a team that had played 14 games over the first two rounds in the early going. It ceased to be an issue after about five-to-seven minutes, but perhaps a better start can be the difference in Game 2.

"We were alright," Kings center Mike Richards said to LA Kings Insider. "It took us a little bit to get into the game. I think we were a little bit sloppy in the first, everybody. Then we started getting it going a bit. Like I said before, we made some mistakes and they capitalized on them and we didn't capitalize on our chances."

"Yeah, only time I really noticed it quite honest was early in the game," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said, via LA Kings Insider. "They were going to come out with some energy, they did two or three times in the first where we got caught at the end of shifts. That's where it showed up. Other than that, I don't think it really hurt us that much."


More from Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar?

These guys are probably Nos. 1 and 2 in most people's Conn Smythe voting, and it's not as though they had a poor Game 1. They combined for three shots and were trapped in the offensive zone on the Blackhawks' nail-in-the-coffin goal that made it 3-1 late in the third period.

Kopitar has gone without a point in two games during the postseason, both Kings losses; the Kings are 1-4 in the five games Gaborik has failed to register a point.

It's unfair to demand that a player pick a point in every playoff game, but it's clear the Kings rely heavily on production from this duo.

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20: Anze Kopitar #11 and Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrate a goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game Two of the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2014 in San Jose, California.
Don Smith/Getty Images


The Need to Avoid the Slump

The Kings are the only team in NHL history to lose three consecutive games in the same series twice and win both series. They fell behind, 3-0, against the Sharks before winning four straight in the first round; The Ducks rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 series lead before the Kings won Games 6 and 7 last round.

With their backs to the wall, the Kings are nearly unbeatable. But there's no denying they've had their down stretches in each series as well.

Against the Blackhawks, the defending champions and perhaps the top team remaining in the playoffs, they can't afford to fall to 2-0 in a series. This series wouldn't be over if the Kings lose Game 2, but climbing out of this hole would be far more difficult than it was in the first two rounds.


Blackhawks' Top Storylines

Good Luck Beating Corey Crawford

Since allowing eight goals in two losses to open the playoffs, Crawford is 9-2 with a .941 save percentage. He has allowed one goal in each of his past three starts, all victories. In Game 1 against the Kings, he turned away 25-of-26 shots.

Crawford is second among playoff goaltenders in save percentage at .933 and is 7-0 at the United Center in the playoffs. 

He has a propensity for the awful game, as Games 3 and 4 of the second round against the Minnesota Wild showed, but he looks dialed in right now.

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 18:  Brandon Saad #20 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates with teammates after scoring in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center o
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images


Can the Power Play Keep It Going?

The Blackhawks have had more than two power-play chances in a game just once since Game 4 of their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues. That seems criminally low considering the immense amount of offensive talent on this team and the fact the Blackhawks averaged more than three power plays per game in the regular season.

They have been making the most of their opportunities, however. They went 1-of-2 last game and are 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) since the start of the second round. 

If the Blackhawks can force the Kings into more penalties, a 2-0 series lead seems likely.


The Unstoppable Toews and Kane

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have combined for 12 goals and nine assists in 13 playoff games. It was Toews who came through with the backbreaking goal in Game 1 by scoring a late goal in the third period to make the score 3-1.

Kane didn't have a point in Game 1, but his speed was noticeable. The Kings looked slow-footed at times trying to track Kane in the neutral zone—there was at least one occasion when Jeff Carter was used as a shadow of sorts—and that likely won't change very much even with the Kings getting two days of rest.

While some teams failed to get production from their stars this postseason—looking at you, Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash (before the conference final)—the Blackhawks have gotten it plenty from Toews and Kane. Sure, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa haven't been filling the net like they did in the regular season, but with Toews and Kane producing, it hasn't really mattered.


Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com.