The Los Angeles Kings must feel at this point that they just could be the 2013-14 team of destiny. In two straight series, LA has watched their opponents win three straight games only to recuperate and claw their way back to victory. Now, in the Western Conference Finals, LA has taken a 2-1 series lead over Chicago after stealing home advantage from the Stanley Cup-defending Hawks. So, the Los Angeles Kings must keep the Chicago Blackhawks recent road woes going, because if they can, they will be off to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In the regular season, Chicago had one of the best home records in the league with 27 wins and seven losses, a stat that few teams could boast. Their away percentage was not too shabby either, over the .500 mark that good teams need to have a hope of making the playoffs. However, while decent, those away numbers are not the sort that would inspire fear in the hearts of too many opponents.
The playoffs have been a different game altogether, however. Chicago is 7-1 at home at the United Center, but their road record is a dismal 2-5. To make matters worse for the Hawks, not only are they playing a Los Angeles team that is seeking revenge for last year’s Western Finals loss, but a team that is filled with confidence, having overcome a 3-0 deficit against San Jose in the first round and then fighting their way back to victory after allowing the Anaheim Ducks to cruise to three straight wins in the last round. This makes it even more imperative that the Blackhawks must not allow the Los Angeles Kings to keep Chicago’s road woes going.
Los Angeles, though, should not be crowned champions just yet. Whatever confidence they may have, this is a team that did allow two straight opponents to win three in a row. Also, while the Hawks may have lost home ice advantage, the Kings home record in these playoffs is not particularly great, having won only three of six games in the last two rounds. LA has been a hot-or-not team this post-season, streaking when they needed to but experiencing near epic collapses in both series.
Chicago, meanwhile, has been much more consistent in their play. In both previous rounds they have suffered a two-game losing streak, but in the first round, both of those losses came in overtime against a remarkably tough St. Louis Blues team, including one triple-OT loss. Like the Kings, the Hawks went on a four-game winning streak of their own in the first round as well.
Chicago has been without the talents of Patrick Kane in the third round, however. Not that he is not playing, just that he has not played well at all. Kane is minus-three in the series and does not have a single point, so if Chicago wants to have any hope of defending their Stanley Cup crown, they will need him to step up. On the other side of the ice, it is a different story. In order to win this series and duplicate their 2011-2012 Stanley Cup winning ways, the Los Angeles Kings must keep the Chicago Blackhawks road woes going. If Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty can maintain their domination on the ice, that might not be quite as hard as it would otherwise seem.
Commentary by Bryan A. Jones