NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Kings vs Chicago Blackhawks

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Finals

Los Angeles Kings vs Chicago Blackhawks
Best of Seven Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Series Price: Blackhawks -160 / Kings +135 (Odds courtesy of Bookmaker)

Game #1, Sunday, May 18, 2014, 3:00 pm Eastern, TV: NBC
United Center – Chicago, Illinois
Opening Line: Chicago -145 / Los Angeles +125
Current Line: Chicago -150 / Los Angeles +130
Opening Total: over 5 -110 / under 5 -110
Current Total: over 5 -110 / under 5 -110

The Chicago Blackhawks are favored to beat the LA Kings in the Western Conference Finals. Game one is Sunday in Chicago.
The Chicago Blackhawks are favored to beat the LA Kings in the Western Conference Finals. Game one is Sunday in Chicago.

While the Eastern Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs features two teams who haven’t won the Cup in at least 20 years, the Western Conference Finals features the last two Stanley Cup Champions. The Los Angeles Kings won the Cup in 2012 and the Chicago Blackhawks won it last year. LA and Chicago also met in the Western Conference Finals last year. The Blackhawks won in five games en route to their second Stanley Cup in four years. The winner between Chicago and Los Angeles will face either the New York Rangers or Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals next month. It is the first time since 1993 that no division winners advanced to the Conference Finals.

Los Angeles finished third in the Pacific Division with 100 points. The Kings were down 3 games to none against the San Jose Sharks in the first round. However, LA became only the fourth NHL team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the series. The Kings then beat crosstown rival the Anaheim Ducks in the second round in seven games. The road team won the first four games of that series, before each team won at home in games five and six. Los Angeles won game seven Friday night in Anaheim 6-2 to advance to their third straight Western Conference Finals. There is no word yet whether the Kings will get rings for being California state champs. The Kings are 6-0 in elimination games in the playoffs.

Chicago finished third in the  Central Division with 107 points. The Blackhawks lost the first two games of their first round series at the St. Louis Blues in overtime, but then won 4 straight games to take the series. Four of the six games in that series went into overtime. Chicago then beat the Minnesota Wild in six games in the second round. The Blackhawks won game six Tuesday night in St. Paul 2-1 in overtime to close out the series.

Chicago won all three regular season meetings against LA. The Blackhawks won in Chicago 3-1 December 15 and 1-0 December 30. Chicago won in Los Angeles 5-3 February 3. The Blackhawks have  won 19 of the last 26 games against the Kings, including 5 straight games in Chicago.

Los Angeles is coached by Darryl Sutter. The Kings are 54-34-2-6 this season and the total was 22-41-19 during the regular season. Chicago is coached by Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks are 54-25-7-8 this season and the total was 39-42-1 during the regular season.

Los Angeles is outscoring teams 3.21-2.64 in the playoffs. The Kings are second in goals scored and sixth in goals allowed. LA is averaging 30.7 shots per game and opponents average 30.6 per game. The Kings are  11 for 48 on the power play (22.9%) in the playoffs. LA is 83.9% on the penalty kill and has allowed 9 power play goals. The Kings have won 52.7% of face-offs in the postseason.

Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick has a goals against average of 2.72 in the playoffs with a save percentage of .914. He has allowed 36 goals in 421 shots faced with one shutout. Quick struggled in the first 3 games against the Sharks and was benched twice in those games. San Jose outscored the Kings 17-8 in the first 3 games, but LA outscored them 18-5 for the rest of the series. Quick has given up 3 goals or less in 10 of the last 11 games for the Kings.

LA Center Anze Kopitar leads all scorers in the playoffs with 19 points including 14 assists. Right wing Marian Gaborik has 15 points and leads the playoffs in goals with 9. Right wing Justin Williams (5 goals, 6 assists) and center Jeff Carter (4 G, 7A) both have 11 points. Defenseman Drew Doughty has 9 points with 8 assists. Center Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Jake Muzzin each have 7 points. Defensemen Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr are both questionable Sunday.

Chicago is outscoring teams 2.92-2.25 in the playoffs. The Blackhawks are sixth in goals scored and third in goals allowed. Chicago is averaging 27 shots per game and opponents are averaging 31.5 shots per game in the playoffs. The Blackhawks are 6 for 33 on the power play (18.2%). Chicago leads the playoffs on the penalty kill at 91.3% and has only allowed 4 power play goals. Chicago has won 51.2% of face-offs.

Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford has a 1.97 GAA with a .931 save percentage. Crawford has allowed 26 goals in 377 shots faced, and has one shutout.

Right wing Marian Hossa and defenseman Brent Seabrook both have 11 points with 9 assists. Center Jonathan Toews (5G, 5A) and right wing Patrick Kane (6G, 4A) each have 10 points. Left wing Brian Bickell has 9 points with 6 goals. Defenseman Duncan Keith (2G, 6A), LW Brandon Saad (2G, 5A) and LW Patrick Sharp (2G, 4A) also contribute to the scoring. Center Andrew Shaw is day to day with a lower body injury. Third string goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Antti Raanta is the back-up in case something happens  to Crawford.

Los Angeles is 5-1 in road games, 4-1 after scoring 5 or more goals in the previous game, 7-2 on one day rest, 19-7 after a win, 8-3 against teams with winning records, against Western Conference teams and overall, 13-5 when the opponent scores two goals or less in the previous game, 1-4 in conference finals games, and 1-6 after the opponent allows 2 goals or less in the previous game. The under is 37-18-8 in this series recently, including 22-8-3 in Chicago.

Chicago is 8-1 in conference final games, 6-1 after a win, 5-1 after allowing 2 goals or less in the previous game, 8-2 against teams with winning records, overall and against Western Conference teams, 49-17 at home, 8-3 after scoring 2 goals or less in the previous game, 5-2 on 3 or more days rest, 14-6 against Pacific Division teams, 60-27 against teams with winning road records, 42-20 in Sunday games, and 35-17 after the opponent scores 5 goals or more in the previous game. The home team has won 6 of the last 8 games in this series.

Chicago has owned Los Angeles recently, but the Kings will be out for revenge after the Blackhawks eliminated them last year in the playoffs. Quick is rounding into his normal dominant self after some early struggles. Still, I think Chicago wins game one and wins the series in seven games.

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