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Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (5): Puck Daddy’s 2013 Western Conference Final Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings both needed Game 7 wins to advance to the Western Conference Final, which speaks to the quality of their second round foes and some of the offensive issues both teams have dealt with in the 2013 NHL Playoffs.

Now they battle for the right to play for the Stanley Cup.

Or as Los Angeles calls it, “That thing that's ours.”

The Blackhawks have the home ice advantage. The Kings have arguably the best player in the postseason in Jonathan Quick.

Who wins the West?

Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (5)

Saturday, June 1, 5 p.m.: Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks (NBC Sports Network, TSN, RDS)

Sunday, June 2, 8 p.m.: Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks (NBC Sports Network, TSN, RDS)

Tuesday, June 4, 9 p.m.: Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings (NBC Sports Network, TSN, RDS)

Thursday, June 6, 9 p.m.: Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings (NBC Sports Network, CBC, RDS)

*Saturday, June 8, 8 p.m.: Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks (NBC, CBC, RDS)

*Monday, June 10, 9 p.m.: Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings (NBC Sports Network, CBC, RDS)

*Wednesday, June 12, TBD: Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks (NBC Sports Network, CBC, RDS)

Forwards

The Blackhawks scrambled their lines during the Red Wings series, loading up with Jonathan Toews (6 points), Patrick Sharp (7 goals, 4 assists) and Patrick Kane (2 goals, 7 assists). They’ll need more out of Toews, who has one goal in the playoffs.

Marian Hossa (11 points) skates with Bryan Bickell (6 points) and Michal Handzus (6 points). The Blackhawks have a tenacious third line with Brandon Saad (2 assists), Andrew Shaw (6 points) and Viktor Stalberg (2 assists) that needs to produce more on the scoreboard. Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger make up the fourth line.

Anze Kopitar (7 points) and Justin Williams (6 points) skate on the Kings’ first line with Kyle Clifford. Mike Richards (10 points) is the Kings’ leading scorer, and linemate Jeff Carter is their leading goal-scorer with five goals. They skate with Dustin Penner (3 points).

Dustin Brown was a top-liner in last year’s Cup run but is skating with Dwight King and Trevor Lewis. Brad Richardson, Colin Fraser and Tyler Toffoli make up the fourth line, with Jordan Nolan and the injured Jarret Stoll waiting in the wings.

Advantage: Blackhawks

Defense

Duncan Keith is the Blackhawks’ ice time leader at 24:36 TOI and has nine points in the postseason. Brent Seabrook (20:17 TOI), the hero of Game 7, had his struggles vs. the Red Wings. Niklas Hjalmarsson (21:17) and Johnny Oduya (20:58) have been solid performers throughout the playoffs, although they were shaky at times against the Wings. Nick Leddy (minus-5) and Michal Rozsival (plus-5) make up the other pairing.

The Kings’ top two pairings have been dynamic for them. Drew Doughty is skating 27:57 per night with partner Robyn Regehr (20:58). Slava Voynov (7 points) is a plus-7, skating with Rob “The Piece” Scuderi (22:36, plus-6). Rookie Jake Muzzin and veteran Matt Greene make up the other pairing.

Advantage: Kings

Goalies

Corey Crawford has been outstanding for the Hawks, sporting a 1.70 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. In the past, he couldn’t get the team out of the opening round. But as he told the Rockford Register Star: “This is a different year. I’m a different guy, and this is a different team.”

Jonathan Quick has been flat out unbeatable for the Kings: Spring a 1.50 GAA and a .948 save percentage. He’s undefeated on home ice. Quick has been aggressive and clutch; arguably, the best player in the playoffs.

Ray Emery and Jonathan Bernier are the capable backups.

Advantage: Kings

Player That Deserves Asterisk

Bryan Bickell has five goals. More than Kane and Toews combined. That pace can’t continue, can it?

Coaches

Joel Quenneville put his lines in a blender on a few occasions during the Red Wings series, where he was outcoached by Mike Babcock. He has to find a way to get more offensive out of this lineup and not allow the Kings to dictate terms in the series.

Darryl Sutter is a man of few words and many good decisions, helping this Kings team start to resemble last season’s juggernaut.

Advantage: Even

Special Teams

The Blackhawks have the 10th best power play in the playoffs at 16.2 percent (37 chances) and the best penalty kill in the postseason at 97.6 percent.

The Kings have the seventh best power play at 20 percent (35 chances) and the fifth best penalty kill at 86.0 percent.

Advantage: Blackhawks

The Player You Hate To Love

Andrew Shaw of the Blackhawks plays tough, crashed the goalie and can be a nudge, but he’s also an undeniable asset for Chicago.

Mike Richards of the Kings is a player that might agitate you as much as he agitates his opponents, but in the end he’s one of the most fierce competitors in the Western Conference.

The Player You Love To Hate

Duncan Keith can step over the line physically and probably isn’t going to be invited to a National Organization of Women meeting any time soon.

Dustin Brown hits hard and usually doesn’t answer for it. He’s the kind of player you loathe until he’s on your team.

Prediction

Blackhawks in seven.

This is based on the assumption that some of the underachieving forwards find their offense in this series, and that home ice will mean anything. If the Hawks hold serve at the UC, they won’t need to win in LA, where no one has this postseason. Jonathan Quick is going to be difficult to overcome; the guess here is that the Hawks (barely) find a way.

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