Game 1 between the Blackhawks and Kings begins at 2 p.m. on NBC, or you can watch via NBC Live Extra's live stream here. And don't forget to flip over to Comcast SportsNet after the game for Blackhawks Postgame Live.
1. Special Teams could determine outcome. The Chicago Blackhawks have the best penalty killing percentage of anyone in these 2014 playoffs. They have killed off 42 of 46 chances, putting themselves at over a 91% efficiency rating. Not bad for a team that struggled toward the bottom three for the first half of the regular season in penalty kills. But they are up against a team in the Kings that have scored three power play goals in its last three games. Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Marian Gaborik make this unit work, and the Hawks will have their work cut out for them when they go down a man. Stay out of the box and be aware of these three when they get the opportunity.
2. Cycle the Kings D. The Los Angeles Kings were dealt a pretty hefty blow when they lost two of their top six defensemen in their series against San Jose and Anaheim. Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr are big bodies who are positionally sound and have a lot of experience. The Kings still played very well without the two veterans, but this is an area the Blackhawks can exploit. Get pucks deep, create turnovers, and cycle the puck down low with speed. Chicago’s D are very good at jumping in at the right time on these cycles, so watch for them to be an active part of the offense.
3. Go High on Quick. Jonathan Quick is an elite goaltender. He has won a Stanley Cup and was voted the Most Valuable Player during their run in 2012. He is agile and acrobatic, but usually stays very close to the ice in his “deep crouch” style. A lot of times when he drops in the butterfly he will stay down, electing to move side to side on his pads. This presents an opportunity for the Hawks to go upstairs, especially on second and third opportunities. Get traffic, get shots, and then roof it when you get a rebound chance.