The 2014 NHL playoffs are kicking into high gear, and the most explosive remaining series is the Western Conference Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings.
After Chicago stole the first game with a 3-1 victory, the Kings bounced back with a dominant 6-2 victory in Game 2 that shifted the momentum. Now the series shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 3 and Game 4.
Here is the full schedule with television information for the Western Conference Final.
|1||Blackhawks beat Kings, 3-1||May 18||3 p.m.||NBC|
|2||Kings beat Blackhawks, 6-2||May 21||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|3||Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings||May 24||8 p.m.||NBC|
|4||Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings||May 26||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|5||Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks||May 28||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|6*||Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings||May 30||9 p.m.||NBCSN|
|7*||Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks||June 1||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
Source: NHL.com. *if necessary
Breaking Down Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks
While the Eastern Conference battle between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers is interesting, the better of the two conference championships is the matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago started the series strong at home by dominating Los Angeles in every facet of the game. The 3-1 score is not a good indication of the defensive supremacy and offensive dominance that the Blackhawks showed in Game 1.
As has happened in each series thus far, Corey Masisak points out one of the fatal flaws in the play of the Kings:
So the Kings are having trouble with a team's transition game early in a series and, wait, stop me if I've told this one already ...— Cörey Masisak (@cmasisak22) May 22, 2014
For many fans, this series looked like an easy win for Chicago.
After scoring the first two goals in Game 2, the Blackhawks completely choked away the lead and allowed the Kings to score six unanswered goals. With the series now shifting back to Los Angeles, momentum is on the side of the Kings heading into Game 3.
Sportsnet talked about just how rare the blown loss was for the Blackhawks:
#Blackhawks allow 5 goals in the 3rd period of a home playoff game for the first time since April 20, 1975 vs Sabres— Sportsnet Ticker (@SportsnetTicker) May 22, 2014
Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp spoke to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune about his team’s loss in Game 2:
It's pretty frustrating. We got off to a good start through 40 minutes. We were skating well and drew a few penalties and then obviously things unraveled during the third. We're not happy and we're looking forward to getting on the plane and making up for it in Game 3.
It just goes to show you what can happen when you take your foot off the gas. You make a few mistakes when you let up for a few shifts. That's a quality team. They won a Stanley Cup (in 2012) and they're hungry for more.
As devastating as the loss was for the Blackhawks, Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times spoke to Kings captain Dustin Brown about beating the team’s longtime foes in front of the raucous United Center crowd:
Money quote from The Captain; "I think this is a huge game for our approach, our psyche. Kind of like slaying the mythical dragon." #Brown— lisa dillman (@reallisa) May 22, 2014
There is no doubt that the battle between goaltenders will be an important factor in this series—both Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford must step up big—but the real key will be the pressure each team can muster in the offensive zone.
Which team will win the series?
Chicago boasts talented scorers like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Sharp, but the team has found scoring from all over the roster this postseason. For Los Angeles, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik have been complemented nicely by Jeff Carter and the rest of the depth players.
With both teams taking a victory in this series, the remainder of the games will be much more intense and the physicality will continue to pick up. Fans are hoping this Western Conference battle goes all seven games.
Predicted Series Outcome: Blackhawks Win, 4-3
*Stats via NHL.com.