Now that all of the adrenaline and excitement has worn off from the Los Angeles Kings’ game seven thrashing of their Southern California rival, the Anaheim Ducks, it is now time to look forward to the Kings’ Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Kings and Blackhawks will meet in the Conference Final for the second time in as many seasons. The Blackhawks got the better of the Kings last season and eliminated the Kings in double overtime of game five, before going onto beat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
However, that was last season and no two seasons are the same, so here are five things to watch for in the Los Angeles Kings’ series against the Blackhawks. And make sure to check out the Barry’s Tickets Blog for a preview of the series as well.
1. The Kings’ Dynamic Duo.
Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar have been everything Kings fans had hoped they would be when the Kings grabbed Gaborik at the trade deadline. Gaborik has taken the playoffs by storm, scoring nine goals in 14-games. The two have combined for 34-points during these playoffs and rank numbers one and two in points through two rounds.
Through two rounds of play the combination of Kopitar and Gaborik have beaten out the likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, Ryan Gertzlaf and Corey Perry, and will now have to beat out another all-star pair in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
2. Health On The Blue Line.
The Kings are a defensive minded team, this is no secret. However, during these playoffs there has been times the Kings have seemed to not have the strength and talent on the back end to support that type of play.
This is all in part due to injuries to Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr. Both are influential stay at home defensemen that eat up heavy amounts of minutes and allow other d-men to activate in the rush. Their injuries have forced some slower defensemen like Justin Schultz and Matt Greene into more ice time. Against a fast, offensive powerhouse like Chicago this could prove costly to the Kings.
On the bright side, Mitchell has been skating with the team but no time table has been set for a return to the line-up.
3. Anze Kopitar’s Conn Smythe Run.
We touched on Kopitar earlier, but he deserves a category to himself.
There has been no bigger difference maker on the Kings’ roster than Kopitar. Coming into the playoffs everyone said Quick would be the deciding factor and he would be the work horse for the Kings. Going into the third round, Quick has had streaks of subpar play and has seemed very beatable at times.
Kopitar has been the Kings’ best player to this point of the post season. He currently leads the league in post season scoring with five goals and 19-points in 14 games played. On top of his offensive explosion, he has been remarkable defensively shutting down some of the top talent in Thornton, Getzlaf and Perry.
Kopitar is possibly the best two-way player in the world and he will have to be if the Kings want a shot at the Cup.
4. Containing Patrick Kane.
There is likely no player on either team that has a knack for big time goals than Kane. He has scored three game winning goals during these playoffs, including an overtime goal that eliminated the Minnesota Wild last round. The Kings are all too familiar with Kane’s ability to take over a series.
Last season, Kane recorded a hat trick, and scored the game winning goal in double overtime of game five of the Kings and Blackhawks series, sending the Kings home for the summer. Before that game the Kings held Kane to only a goal and an assist through four games. However, game five showed how quick Kane can turn a series around.
5. Jonathan Quick‘s Play.
Like I mentioned before, the Kings have gotten a little less than what they had expected from Quick. He started out the post season by allowing 16-goals in three games to the San Jose Sharks.Definitely not the start anyone was looking for.
Since then Quick has gotten better allowing just 20 goals in the last 11 games.
However, there has been times against the Ducks where Quick has seemed lost in his crease. Quick will need to be on his game against the Blackhawks, because any type of lapse will likely cost the Kings. If Quick can put together a series that resembles his Conn Smythe performance in 2012, the Kings should get out of this series.
Tags: Los Angeles Kings