NHL West Finals: Challenge of Champions
The last two Stanley Cup champions are about to meet in the NHL Western Conference finals.
The Los Angeles Kings will be looking for revenge after the Chicago Blackhawks defeated them in five games on the way to the Stanley Cup last season.
The Blackhawks defeated St Louis and Minnesota in the playoffs this year, while the Kings knocked off San José, after trailing three games to none, and Anaheim, also in seven games. In the latter, it can be argued that Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau should have put more faith in Jonas Hiller's experience over the long arc of the series.
But that was then. This is now:
The goaltending matchup in this series is interesting. Chicago's Corey Crawford is steady and has played at a high level for most of the playoffs. Jonathan Quick started slow for the Kings against San Jose, but has rebounded and led LA to wins against the rival Ducks, allowing only three goals in the final two games.
Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Jonathan Towes lead the powerful attack for the Hawks as they are looking to win their third Stanley Cup in five years after not winning any for 49 years. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, a trade deadline addition, are the leaders for the Kings, who hope to win it all again after claiming their first Cup in 2012. Jeff Carter for the Kings and Bryan Bickell for Chicago are two other players to watch in this series.
Brent Seabrook is the Blackhawks' best defenseman but Johnny Oduya is known to lockdown on the opponents' best player as Chicago strives to keeps shots from getting through to Crawford.
And if anyone sees the NBC and/or CBC announcers, please give them a reminder:
Drew Doughty is the heart of the Kings' backline and if he stays out of the penalty box, Quick will see less shots in the series from Chicago.
The NHL has to be thrilled. Three Original Six teams are left. New York and Montréal are still playing in the East. Two more great markets are left in the West, Chicago and Los Angeles. It could make for a great two weeks of hockey.