Where the Hawks, Kings benefit in Western Finals

Where the Hawks, Kings benefit in Western Finals
May 30, 2013, 5:00 pm
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TALE OF THE TAPE

Team Statistics
33
Goals for
26
22
Goals against
20
6
PP goals
7
1
SH goals
0
149
Blocked shots
178
Individual Leaders
P. Sharp (7)
Goals
Carter (5)
11 - Sharp, Hossa
Points
10 - Richards
Keith (24:36)
Time on ice
Doughty (27:57)
Shaw (22)
PIM
Quick (14)
Miscellaneous
Corey Crawford
(8-4, .938 SV%)
Goaltenders
Jonathan Quick
(8-5, .948 SV%)
Beat Wild (4-1); Red Wings (4-3)
Road to WCF
Beat Blues (4-2};
Sharks (4-3)

The Chicago Blackhawks ended their longtime conference rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night, a Brent Seabrook overtime goal that secured their spot in the Western Conference Finals.

Now they face the Los Angeles Kings, who come with their own challenges. This is not the same Kings team the Blackhawks faced in their regular-season opener on Jan. 19, the day L.A. unfurled their Stanley Cup banner and passed said Cup around the arena one more time. The Kings aren’t barreling through these playoffs at the frenetic pace they did during last spring’s Cup run, but they’re here, and playing damn well, nonetheless.

The Blackhawks have a big test on their hands. Is it one that will be too tough for them? We’ll see how it plays out. Regardless, the Blackhawks have their benefits, as do the Kings, heading into this series. Let’s have a quick look at some of them, shall we?

[MORE: Crawford's composure has led to big postseason performance

BLACKHAWKS’ BENEFITS

1. They’re not as bumped and bruised: There certainly was some physical play between the Blackhawks and Red Wings, and both teams took some lumps. But as the series continued the Blackhawks started coming out on the better end of this stat. Detroit’s physicality was somewhat neutralized, at least with certain players--Niklas Kronwall wasn’t his typical Kronwall self after taking a big Bryan Bickell hit in Game 5. The Kings, meanwhile, played a very physical series against the San Jose Sharks and are feeling some effects from that and the season/playoffs in general. That could be noticeable early, with back-to-back Game 1 and 2.

2. The home-ice advantage: The Blackhawks have been good this postseason at the United Center, losing just Game 2 to the Red Wings here. If they can continue that, starting with these first two games against the Kings (who are 1-5 on the road this postseason), they’ll truly make the most of their advantage. Plus, getting any edge before heading to the Staples Center is beneficial; the Kings are 7-0 on their home ice through two rounds.

[RELATED: Complete Blackhawks, Kings broadcast schedule

3. Penalty killing prowess: Yes, we’ll harp on special teams--the good portion of them for the Blackhawks--as long as they do well on them. And the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been a thing of barren beauty. The Red Wings finally snapped their no-goal streak at 33, but they just managed one through the whole series. The Kings have a solid power play--ranked seventh overall this postseason. But if the Blackhawks can continue their penalty killing in the Western Conference Finals, they’ll be in good shape.

KINGS’ BENEFITS

1. Jonathan Quick: We really don’t need to say more, but we will anyway. The Kings have just 26 goals in their 13 postseason games. But when your goaltender’s goals-against average is 1.50, you can get away with that. The Kings are here, in large part, thanks to this man’s work. Jimmy Howard is a great goaltender. Quick is a tremendous one, and the Blackhawks have their work cut out against him.

[WATCH: NHL analyst Darren Pang looks ahead to Western Conference Finals

2. Big, bad and bruising: Remember when we said above that the Kings are hurting a little bit? Well, they can still dish out the hurt, too. Four Kings are ranked in the postseason’s top 15 for hits. Dustin Brown leads the team with 57 and Dustin Penner, ranked 14th, has three more hits (38) than the Blackhawks’ top hitter Bryan Bickell. This is the one element that the Blackhawks lost most, and probably miss most, from that 2010 Cup team. And it could hurt them, literally and figuratively, again.

3. Been here, done this. Like, yesterday: No, the Blackhawks aren't that far removed from their Cup run. But in comparison, the Kings basically just ended their days with the Cup. And this isn't the usual Cup hangover season, either; the Kings may have started slow, but they haven’t had to deal with the 82-game rigors that champs in non-lockout seasons did. They’re still basically all together from last season, and what they need to do to win another Cup is still fresh in their minds.

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy (and bruised) couple of nights.