Chicago (1) vs. Los Angeles (5)
Blackhawks (36-7-5, 77 points)
Kings (27-16-5, 59 points)
1. Can anybody beat Kings netminder Jonathan Quick?
The Los Angeles Kings have not exactly provided much goal support for their all-world goaltender Jonathan Quick. But two goals per game -- the lowest total among the final four teams -- have been enough because of how well Quick has played. The 27-year-old goalie leads the post-season in goals-against average at 1.50, in save percentage at .948 and in shutouts with three. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, Quick certainly has regained the form he exhibited a year ago in the Kings' successful run to a first Stanley Cup championship. Quick gives his club a good shot at becoming the first repeat champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
Los Angeles hasn't allowed more than three goals in any of its past 33 playoff games, an NHL record, over its past two post-season runs. The Kings also have won a franchise-record seven consecutive post-season games at home this spring and 14 in a row at Staples Center dating back to the regular season.
2. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter & his Blackhawks roots
Darryl Sutter, 54, spent his entire seven-season NHL career as a player with the Blackhawks and enjoyed his first NHL head-coaching job in Chicago. In fact, the last time the NHL went through a lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule, Sutter steered the Blackhawks all the way to the 1995 Western Conference final. Chicago, however, was eliminated in five games by the Detroit Red Wings.
That was Sutter's final year behind the Blackhawks' bench. He quit that off-season to spend more time with his wife Wanda and their three children, only to resurface as the new head coach of the San Jose Sharks in 1997.
3. How much momentum can Chicago carry over from impressive comeback in previous round against Detroit?
Down 3-1 in its second-round series to Detroit, it appeared as if Chicago was going to succumb to the Presidents' Trophy jinx. Teams that have won the regular-season title have not won a Stanley Cup since the 2007-08 Red Wings. Instead, the Blackhawks have become the 16th Presidents' Trophy winner to advance to at least the conference final.
Here's how the previous 26 regular-season champions have fared:
The Blackhawks were the 49th team in NHL history to force a Game 7 in a series in which they trailed 3-1 and the 25th team to win that seventh and deciding game. Jonathan Toews scored his first goal of the playoffs in Game 6. Defenceman Brent Seabrook saw his ice time drastically reduced early in the series against Detroit, only to be reunited with Duncan Keith and then scored the overtime winner against the Red Wings. So the Blackhawks have plenty of good vibrations from the end of their tough series versus Detroit and they'll need it against the stingy Kings.
Season series: Blackhawks 2-1-0; Kings 1-2-0
Jan. 19 -- Blackhawks win 5-2 at Los Angeles
Feb. 17 -- Blackhawks win 3-2 at Chicago
Mar. 25 -- Los Angeles 5-4 at Chicago
Prediction: Kings in 6
Overall selection record: 9-3
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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