Kings feel rivalry with Blackhawks is just getting started

Kings feel rivalry with Blackhawks is just getting started
May 19, 2014, 6:15 pm
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Nina Falcone

The competition between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings continues to build off of last season, but Justin Williams isn't ready to call this a rivalry just yet.

"Rivalries only exist when another team wins," he said. "We haven't done that yet."

Since their arrival on Saturday evening, the Kings haven't been shy about expressing their desire to return the favor after the Blackhawks ended their series last year.

In 2013, it only took the eventual champions five games to send the defending champions packing. Now, here we are again; the Blackhawks up 1-0 over the Kings after Game 1 in Chicago. 

[MORE: Hossa, Gaborik experience some neighborly competition]

Both teams have experienced similar success, winning the Stanley Cup one right after the other and meeting each other in the Western Conference Final in back-to-back years. 

That's quite the recipe for developing a rivalry.

The Kings talked on Monday about what's led to their deeps runs the last few seasons, and it's awfully familiar to the situation the Blackhawks are experiencing, too. 

"I think keeping your core group together, whether it is young or old," Jarret Stoll said. "The league is young nowadays and we’ve got probably five or six young guys and five or six guys who have been around a while, so-called veteran players. So you take a group of maybe 10-12 players who have been together for ... well, this is my sixth year here and there’s a lot guys around from when me and [Matt Greene] were traded. That helps a lot." 

Doesn't that sound familiar?

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Blackhawks were plagued by the salary cap, having to deal away nearly half of their winning team in the offseason. But this time around, things were different. After their 2013 win, the Blackhawks returned a nearly identical roster; only Michael Frolik and Dave Bolland were dealt and Viktor Stalberg went the free-agent route.

[RELATED: Willie Mitchell happy to be back in Kings' lineup]

The Blackhawks kept their core together and continued to grow their depth throughout all four lines. Throughout the last couple years, Los Angeles has experienced much of that as well, signing its core guys and bringing in those missing pieces that have clicked since its 2012 run.

"To keep guys around is a compliment to our organization, to (GM Dean Lombardi), to (owner) Mr. Anschutz, to keeping certain guys here and then building around them," Stoll said. "Bringing in Mike (Richards) and Jeff (Carter), bringing in (Marian Gaborik), signing guys long-term that we needed to, those are all things that you need to do and that’s what they’ve done. Then it is just a confidence thing."

When it comes to postseason success, experience is key. Most of the guys on the ice during this Western Conference Final have won the Stanley Cup within the last two seasons, and because of that, these two organizations may see a lot more of each other in the playoffs throughout the next couple of years.

So while they may not deem this a "rivalry" just yet, it's well on its way.

"When you win, you get confidence," Stoll continued. "It’s a culture change, but it’s confidence, it’s winning, it’s just putting it all together and knowing that we have a team and not worrying really about anything else or any other team."