By the time the Kings advanced to the Western Conference finals against the Blackhawks last season, most of their team was being held together by tape and hope.
Battered after defeating St. Louis in six games and San Jose in seven, the Kings fell to the Blackhawks in five games. It probably wasn’t much consolation to them that Chicago went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Kings continued to struggle against the Blackhawks this season, losing all three of their regular-season games while scoring only four goals in those defeats. They had the same number of regular-season wins (46) but the Blackhawks had more points, 107 to 100.
Here’s a look at how they shape up:
Kings offense vs.
The Kings were among the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams during the regular season, but they averaged three goals a game through the first two playoff rounds. Winger Marian Gaborik is the top playoff goal scorer with nine, and center Anze Kopitar is the scoring leader with 19 points. The Blackhawks’ defense is led by Norris Trophy finalist Duncan Keith, whose average ice time of 27 minutes and 57 seconds leads active players. He and longtime defense partner Brent Seabrook are a formidable duo. The Blackhawks’ goals-against average is a sparkling 2.04.
Kings defense vs.
The Kings’ defense was stretched by losing Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr to injuries, and their penalty killing suffered. Jeff Schultz and Matt Greene stepped in to help hold things together. Drew Doughty has averaged 27 minutes and 22 seconds’ ice time and has handled it well. The Blackhawks’ defensemen have scored six of their 35 goals. Jonathan Toews, known as Captain Serious for his demeanor, also can be called Mr. Clutch — he has four game-winning goals. Patrick Kane has three.
Jonathan Quick will have his name on the Jennings Trophy as the reward for the Kings giving up the fewest goals during the regular season, but he didn’t have a great start in the playoffs. However, he yielded only two goals in their last three games against San Jose and only three goals in the final two games of the seven-game victory over the Ducks. Corey Crawford was stellar for Chicago against Minnesota, bringing his goals-against average to 1.97 and his save percentage to .931. He can’t be considered a question mark anymore.
The Kings’ power play ranked among the league’s weakest during the season, at 15.1% and has been better in the playoffs, at 22.9%. The Blackhawks’ postseason power play (18.2%) isn’t as effective as their regular-season 19.5%, but their penalty killing is a postseason-best 91.3%.
The Kings’ 23-14-4 regular-season home record is middle-of-the-pack (and identical to their road record). They’ve been 3-3 at home in postseason play but won Game 7 on the road in each of the first two rounds. The Blackhawks are 6-0 at the United Center in postseason play but 2-4 on the road, where they’ve scored 13 goals and given up 19.
Game 1: Sunday at Chicago, noon
Game 2: Wednesday at Chicago, 5
Game 3: May 24 at KINGS, 5
Game 4: May 26 at KINGS, 6
Game 5*: May 28 at Chicago, 5
Game 6*: May 30 at Kings, 6
Game 7*: June 1 at Chicago, 5
All times PDT