The Blackhawks are having serious deja vu. Last year en route to their Championship season, they faced the Wild, Red Wings and Kings before defeating the Bruins in the finals. This year, it’s been the Blues, Wild and now the Kings again in the conference finals.
I’m not going to look at last year, we all know what happened. The post-season is like that perfect mixture of swamp water you used to make as a kid at the soda fountain: it’s rarely (if ever) duplicated. When people say this is a “different” team from last year, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the players are all different. The Hawks and Kings have similar rosters as to when they faced each other a spring ago, however, many factors play into a series like this, especially one so deep in the playoffs.
First, there’s injuries; who’s more banged up? Then there is progression; how far have the younger players come from last year and is there a wily vet coming into his own. How about hot/cold streaks? Slight change in style or strategy? Match ups and line combinations? Special teams success or detriment? There are a lot of interesting storylines involved in those topics listed above, but for now, I’m going to get you acquainted with your opponents, Blackhawk fans. I personally watch a lot of hockey, play fantasy sports, have weird hockey dreams, etc. and there have been times during these playoffs where I have found myself saying “who in the heck is that guy?”
I do not want you to be misinformed this time around. When you’re not concerned about someone named Tanner Pearson flying down the wing, think again. When you think Mike Richards is one more 11 goal season away from retiring because he’s playing on the 4th line, don’t be fooled. Also, if the Hawks manage to get to Quick early, don’t think it’s all over because this cat named Martin Jones is warming up in the hallway.
Here’s what you need to know about these weapons:
Marian Gaborik (#12) – Anze Kopitar (#11 – ‘A’) – Dustin Brown (#23 – ‘C’)
The biggest difference a King fan will tell you about their team this year vs. last year is… they can finally SCORE! They are over a Goal/Game more successful this year (3.21 vs. 2.06). A main part of that is the infectious scoring attitude Gaborik has brought to the lineup. He has 31 points in 33 games (reg. & playoffs) since joining the team. Combined with a “Man on Fire” Anze Kopitar and a reinvigorated Captain in Dutsin Brown, this line will be a force every time they are on the ice.
Tanner Pearson (#70) – Jeff Carter (#77) – Tyler Toffoli (#73)
Carter is not as much “stuck” with playing with these two youngsters, as he is lucky. They have given him a booster shot of youth which is scary for Hawks fans. Tanner Pearson has been flying lately for the Kings. He is a former 30th overall pick (2012) and a former Barrie Colt star (OHL). He had 17 goals in the AHL before getting a stint with the Kings for 25 games in the regular season.
Toffoli as some Hawks fans will know is a budding star. Just in time for spring, he’s been creating a lot of offensive chances. 2 of his 3 goals have been GWG and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
Trevor Lewis (#22) – Jarret Stoll (#28) – Justin Williams (#14)
Lewis reached a career high with 6 goals (73 games) this year. He is a former 17th overall pick that didn’t pan out into a scorer. He’s a average frame at 6’1/200 lbs (comparable size to Patrick Sharp) and most will tell you that he’s the little engine that could when all the other engines were down and out. He makes a big impact in small ways. Remember when I said he only had 6 goals in the regular season, well he’s already at 4 in 14 games in the post-season. He’s 4th in hits on the team with 42 as well.
Stoll is doing a lot of things right in his life…
Sorry, that’s his off the ice success he’s had. ON the ice, he’s playing like a warrior. He is only second to Jonathan Toews in faceoff percentage (55.7%) in remaining players and 2nd only to teammate Brown in hits (58). He’s putting his point production to the side with only 2 points to date in the playoffs. That means either he’s bound to break out, or will just continue to break skeletons on the forecheck.
Justin Williams just won’t go away. He’s still an offensive force with 11 points in 14 games. That now puts him to 64 points in 103 career playoff appearances.
Dwight King (#74) – Mike Richards (#10) – Kyle Clifford (#13)
This 4th line is what Coach Q will have circled on his list. This 4th line is more potent than any other that they’ve faced to date. They have grit, experience and a wolrd class player in Mike Richards on it. It’s like when the Hawks have Bolland on their 4th line last year. Very similar. It speaks volumes to their depth. Quenneville will not be able to run 3 lines in this series without wearing down the big horses. He will need to counter and putting the Bollig-Kruger-Smith line back together is a good start.
Jake Muzzin (#6) - Drew Doughty (#8)
No need to talk about Doughty. He’s amazing. With his aggressive style, he can be victimize, or the opposite, burn you if you’re not paying attention. The real story here is how far Jake Muzzin has come. He moves well with his 6’3/215 frame and isn’t afraid to be pyscial. He has 7 points, 2nd to Doughty’s 9.
Jeff Schultz (#55) – Slava Voynov (#26)
The forgotten man Jeff Schultz had a slow start to the playoffs, but has really ramped up his play. He will probably be the first to go if/when Willie Mitchell is ready to return.
If you told me Voynov led the Kings D in hits (45 – good for 10th in the league), I’d say, pass the pipe Mr. Ford. The barely 6’0/194 lb Russian d-man is feisty and uber talented. He could be an important piece to the puzzle to thwart the Hawks counterparts on the blueline.
Matt Greene (#2 – ‘A’) – Alec Martinez (#27)
Big #2 on the backend is always a physical presence and will give the Hawks fits in the corners. Best bet for the Hawks, chip and go around him. He aint that fast (never was) and is little banged up.
Alec Martinez is a quietly could be an impact on the offense or loudly make errors in his own end. The Hawks will look to pounce on this pairing.
Jonathan Quick (#32)
Martin Jones (#31)
The goaltending will be a steamy topic in this series. Will Crawford outplay Quick, who’s had a very up and down playoffs? We’ll see. If Martin Jones comes into the equation, then it isn’t the worst thing for the Kings. He’s no Quick, but he was so good in the regular season, it forced them to trade Ben Scrivens, who was playing unreal at the time as well. Jones was 12-6 with a 1.81 and a .934% in the regular season… not too shabby.
Jordan Nolan (#71)
Colin Fraser (#24)
Will Mitchell (#33)
Robyn Regehr (#44)
Here’s where the Hawks can beat out the Kings, depth. They are a little deeper in talent and a little healthier than the Kings. But who knows, maybe the Kings have another Tanner Pearson in the wings waiting to fly.
* Very cool work by the Kings website - http://kings.nhl.com/
* HFBoards – LA Kings Fans – this is just for your pure entertainment:
The Kings are gonna bend the Hawks. Someone should take out Kane. If Kane is out it will be all gravy. He’s like the only threat, and he’s tiny.
The Ducks offense was better than Chicago’s. And the Kings shut them down pretty effectively.
Ty Cam out!
Filed Under: Chicago Blackhawks
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.