CHICAGO -- Every team talks about how winning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs comes down to getting pucks and bodies to the net, fighting through traffic to score so-called dirty goals off rebounds. The Chicago Blackhawks are no different, but their challenge in the Western Conference Final is.
The Los Angeles Kings are one of the best teams in the NHL at keeping bodies away from their net. It starts with goalie Jonathan Quick, who is so aggressive and challenging when he plays above the blue paint, precisely the position Chicago will want to occupy starting with Game 1 Saturday at United Center (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The Kings also are one of the better teams at boxing out in front of Quick.
For the Blackhawks to win positional battles in front of the crease, to own the area Quick wants for himself, they have to be the first ones to get there. It's critical against Quick, who is the best goalie going in the playoffs with a 1.50 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. And it's arguably the most important piece of ice for the Blackhawks if they want to win the series.
"You like to get early position there and hopefully you can keep him [Quick] from getting how far he gets out there," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday morning. "They do box out. Detroit did a lot of that as well. There's got to be a willingness to fight through that traffic and the physicality, we can't be deterred by it at all. Getting in front of him is going to be key."
Quenneville's tone suggested he was putting some emphasis on the word "key." He saw how difficult it was for the Blackhawks to get there early in the series against Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. As well as Howard played against Chicago in the Western Conference Semifinals, Quick can make life even more miserable for the Blackhawks.
At least the Blackhawks know they have solved Quick in the past. They scored 12 goals on him in three regular-season games
"It helps a little," Chicago center Dave Bolland said. "You can look back and see what we've done in video putting pucks past him. He's still a great goalie. You saw what he did last year. He's a great goalie. We have to get in front of him and make sure it's tough for him to see the pucks."
Easier said than done.
"We have to have everyone converge," Chicago forward Andrew Shaw said.