The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings will meet in the Western Conference Final for the second straight year. The Hawks won in five a year ago, but the Kings were without centres Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll up the middle.
They are the two most recent Cup champions and here they are again in the Final Four. Los Angeles will play in the its third straight conference final. The Blackhawks will vie for their second straight Cup and third in five years.
With all due respect to the two remaining teams in the East, it’s very possible that the winner of the Western Conference Final will win the Stanley Cup this year.
During their season series with the Kings, the Hawks dominated, winning all three contests. They won four of five to eliminate the Kings a postseason ago. Chicago is the favourite. But L. A. is really good, healthy, and they seem to have destiny on their side. They stormed back from down 3-0 in the first-round to defeat the Sharks in seven games, becoming only the fourth team in league history to accomplish such a comeback. The last team to do it, the Philadelphia Flyers 2010, made it to the Cup Final and lost to Chicago.
The Blackhawks play a puck possession style that is allowed to flourish because their defencemen mobilize better than any others in the NHL.
The Kings like to get pucks deep and control the game along the walls and in the corners. They have big forwards, huge defencemen, and some great shooters in Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter.
Both teams’ goalies, Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick, have won the Cup before.
It will be a clash of styles when the Blackhawks and Kings play for a berth in the Cup Final.
Sal’s Prediction: Blackhawks in 6.
My gut instinct is that Los Angeles will win this series, but it’s really hard to bet against the Blackhawks right now. They’re the defending champs, and they have L.A.’s number.