Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings: Preview and Prediction for Game 3

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings: Preview and Prediction for Game 3
AP Images

The Los Angeles Kings looked down and out in Game 2, behind two goals to the Chicago Blackhawks after dropping the first game of the Western Conference Final. 

As has been the case throughout this postseason, it would be foolish to count out the Kings no matter how dire the situation.

Justin Williams cut the lead in half late in the second period, and the Kings scored five more times in the third to emerge with a 6-2 victory to even the best-of-seven series 1-1.

The Kings now have home ice as the series shifts to Los Angeles, where the team is 3-3 in these playoffs.

 

When: May 24, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

Watch: NBCSN, CBC, RDS

 

Blackhawks' Top Storylines

Can They Get It Done on the Road?

The Blackhawks have had their problems away from United Center during the regular season and the postseason. They went 19-14-8 in the regular season and are 2-4 on the road in the playoffs. In those six playoff games, the Blackhawks have allowed 19 goals.

When the Blackhawks beat the Kings in five games in the conference final last year, they split Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles. They'll need to do that this year just to recover home-ice advantage.

 

How Will Corey Crawford Rebound?

Crawford had been having quite the postseason before allowing five goals on 30 shots in Game 2.

Williams' goal was a weak shot that slithered between his legs. Jake Muzzin had a questionable short-side goal, and one from Tyler Toffoli occurred when Crawford and the rest of the Blackhawks fell asleep.

The good news is Crawford has rebounded from his subpar performances this postseason.

Crawford has made three starts (Game 2 versus L.A. not included) in which he had a save percentage worse than .905. In the three starts that followed, he went 2-1 with a .936 save percentage.

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane certainly believes in his netminder and said, via The Associated Press' Greg Beacham, "He comes back strong after every game. He's a great goaltender. A lot of us in here feel he's the best in the league."

The only worrisome issue is that the two wins came at home; the loss came on the road to Minnesota when he allowed four goals on 31 shots.

 

Has Anyone Seen Patrick Kane?

The superstar has quietly slipped in his game recently, scoring just one goal (although a series-clincher versus Minnesota) in his past seven games. He's been a negative overall Corsi player in three of those games and was one of the Blackhawks who took a nap on Toffoli's goal in Game 2.

Kane had just four shots on goal in the first two games of this series. 

There are plenty of scorers on this team who aren't playing up to their usual standards—hello there, Patrick Sharp—but Kane's offense going cold in the conference final could have the Blackhawks in trouble.

Last year, Kane was in the midst of a seven-game goal drought before scoring four in the final two games against the Kings, including a hat trick and winning goal in Game 5.

 

Kings' Top Storylines

Can the Kings Clean Up Their PK?

It hasn't been a massive storyline in this series, but they've allowed a power-play goal in each of the first two games. Scoring five third-period goals tends to erase that as a problem, but the Kings' penalty kill has had its issues.

Since killing 19 straight penalties over the final three games of their first-round series with the San Jose Sharks and the first game of their second-round matchup with the Anaheim Ducks, the Kings have allowed seven power-play goals in 26 chances over their past eight games. The Kings are 4-4 over that time.

Game 3 will likely be a far more competitive contest than what Game 2 spiraled into during the third period, so a clean penalty-killing performance could be the difference for the Kings.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

 

Getting the Kopitar Line Going

It's been just two games, one of which the Kings won, but the Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Marian Gaborik line hasn't been all that great in this series. 

The trio has combined for just one point and has zero points at even strength. The Kings have received nearly all of their offense in these two games from the second line of Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli.

Gaborik leads the postseason in goals (nine) and Kopitar is first in points (20). Getting them back on track in Game 3 isn't a No. 1 priority, but it would certainly help the cause.

 

Looking for a Series Lead

The Kings trailed throughout the Sharks series, and after opening a 2-0 lead against the Ducks, lost three in a row. Of course, the Kings have no trouble playing from behind in a series or a game, but a lead through three games would be optimal.

When facing elimination, the Kings are 6-0 in the postseason. When leading in a series, the Kings are 1-1 in the postseason.

So maybe dropping the next two games at home isn't the worst thing in the world for Los Angeles.

Prediction: Kings 3, Blackhawks 2

 

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

All statistics via NHL.com.

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