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Blackhawks vs Kings - 2013 Western Conference Final

Five reasons Blackhawks advanced to Cup Final

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It ended in five games, but the Chicago Blackhawks' victory against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final was anything but easy.

It was a hard, physical series for both teams -- who each came into it after seven-game thrillers in the conference semifinals. Chicago, however, won by doing exactly what the Blackhawks have done all season long. They came after the defending Stanley Cup champions in waves in all but the one game they lost, and eventually proved that L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick is human.

Outside of Game 3 at Staples Center, the Blackhawks never really gave Quick a chance to breathe and eventually snuffed out the Kings' hopes for becoming the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 to win the Cup in back-to-back seasons.

Here are five key reasons the Blackhawks are heading into their second Stanley Cup Final in the past four seasons, after winning it all in 2010:

Five reasons Kings could not repeat

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings no longer sit on the NHL’s throne.

Los Angeles, despite a valiant comeback effort in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final at United Center on Saturday, will relinquish the title to either the Chicago Blackhawks or the Boston Bruins. The Kings were worthy champions in 2012, racing to a 3-0 series lead in all four series and losing only four games en route to winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

They found the path to a repeat much more difficult and ultimately too tall a task, but the Kings still provided an honorable title defense. Los Angeles rallied after dropping the first two games against the St. Louis Blues in the opening round, and then outlasted the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Blackhawks were too much for the Kings, as the Presidents’ Trophy winners moved within four victories of claiming the Cup for a second time in four seasons. Here are five reasons why the Kings won’t be repeating as champs:

Bickell bounced back to ignite game-winning goal

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell's night of emotional highs and lows included playmaking, nail biting, hoping, praying and celebrating.

"There's going to be games like that," Bickell said from the corner of the dressing room late Saturday night as he proudly sported his Western Conference Championship hat following Chicago's 4-3 double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Chicago's biggest forward had an assist on Patrick Kane's first two goals and probably should have gotten one on the double-overtime winner that sent the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Boston Bruins starting Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

However, Bickell also was guilty of icing the puck with 14.4 seconds left in regulation. That set up the faceoff in the Blackhawks' defensive zone that led to Mike Richards' game-tying goal with 9.4 seconds to go.

Kings emotionally drained after sudden end to season

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO – They're heading back to Southern California weary and banged-up, but no physical pain will match what the Los Angeles Kings feel on the inside.

The Kings did everything they could on Saturday night to keep alive the dream of defending their 2012 Stanley Cup championship, but the Chicago Blackhawks were just too much to overcome. Chicago's 4-3 victory in double overtime of Game 5 in the Western Conference Final was great viewing for fans – who saw the Kings twice come back to tie the game in the third period – but it left the guys in the visitors' locker room at United Center feeling hollow.

"I don't take much solace in losing," Kings forward Justin Williams said -- almost choking on the words as he they spilled out. "It's a bitter taste and yeah, we were one of the final four … but that wasn't our goal when we set out to start the season. We're not able to defend what we did last year, and that's a frustrating thing."

They'll look back on this game and the best-of-7 series as one gigantic frustration.

Kane elevates play to put Blackhawks in Cup Final

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- A few days ago, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane sat in a stall in the visitors dressing room at Staples Center and answered question after question about why he wasn't producing to the level expected of him.

He talked about sitting with his father, Patrick Sr., and watching video clips of past Stanley Cup Playoff goals, looking for anything that could help him shake his scoring slump. Kane met with the media again Saturday night, only the circumstances were far different.

Moments after sitting at a table and answering question after question about one of the best games of his NHL career, Kane walked into a hallway at United Center and had a present for his dad.

It was a 2013 Western Conference Champions hat.

Kane scored a hat trick Saturday, including the series-clincher 11:40 into the second overtime, to help the Blackhawks fend off the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, 4-3, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final and advance to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

Three keys to Blackhawks clinching in Game 5

Saturday, 06.08.2013 / 3:27 PM / Blackhawks vs Kings - 2013 Western Conference Final

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have two options in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final  against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). They can either win and book their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in four seasons, or they can lose and board their second flight to Southern California in a week.

"It's not a fun travel day to do all that," Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane said. "So, if anything, that should be motivation not to go through that again."

If Chicago is going to avoid the trip to L.A. and force the Boston Bruins to come to the Windy City early next week to open the Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks are going to need to do the following three things:

Three keys to a potential Kings comeback

Saturday, 06.08.2013 / 3:18 PM / Blackhawks vs Kings - 2013 Western Conference Final

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings lost four games in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to their first championship. Saturday night, they will try to avoid losing four in one series and extend their bid for a repeat.

Like most of the games they've played during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings' Game 4 loss was a tight-checking, one-goal affair. Los Angeles had a lead late in the second period and was closing in on a 16th consecutive victory at Staples Center. But a late goal in the second and an early goal in the third proved to be the difference for the Chicago Blackhawks, who can knock out the defending champs and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in four seasons with a win in Game 5 at United Center.

This is not the first time these Kings have faced elimination. The San Jose Sharks had a chance to dethrone them in the Western Conference Semifinals, and the Kings responded with one of their better games of this postseason in Game 7 at Staples Center.

With that in mind, here are three reasons the Kings can fight their way back into this series, beginning with Game 5 on Saturday night:

Back-to-the-wall Kings expect big effort in Game 5

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- It might have been a smile or it could have been something more like a smirk -- it was hard to tell. Either way, it was a noticeable tell coming off Dustin Brown's Stanley Cup Playoff poker face as he spoke about why he and the rest of the Los Angeles Kings might still have some fight left in them in the Western Conference Final.

The Kings trail the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, with Game 5 set for Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

"One thing about this group of guys is we tend to play our best hockey when we're really in trouble," Brown said as he smiled (or smirked) late Friday afternoon from inside the Kings' downtown hotel. "You look at last year in the regular season, I think we were in 13th place with 20 games to go. It's a different situation when you've just got one game to play, but you can draw on being in the trench hole together.

"I think it's key for us, the fact that we've been through it together and we've been down in the holes together. I think the most important thing is just leaning on each other at a time like right now."

Blackhawks taking nothing for granted for Game 5

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The Chicago Blackhawks got what they were seeking in Los Angeles and it wasn't extended beach time or a windblown cruise down the Sunset Strip.

What the Blackhawks got instead was a big 3-2 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center, where the home team was perfect in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now comes the hard part.

The Blackhawks, who lead the best-of-7 series 3-1, have a chance to close out the Kings in Game 5 on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), which would put Chicago into its second Stanley Cup Final in the past four seasons.

"I think we can just go into [Game 5] with the mindset that we're down 3-1," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said Friday afternoon after arriving at O'Hare International Airport. "That's what we've said the last couple games in L.A., obviously being up 2-0 or 2-1. You know the other team's going to come at you hard, but it's up to you to motivate yourself and try and put yourself in that position where you feel like you're in a seventh game or your back's up against the wall."

Handzus gives Hawks long-sought 2nd-line center

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- When the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings stunned the Chicago Blackhawks by winning three consecutive games in the Western Conference Semifinals and pushing the Presidents' Trophy winners to the brink of elimination, coach Joel Quenneville needed something to wake his dormant offense.

Michal Handzus
Center - CHI
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 9
SOG: 13 | +/-: 5

Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings had suffocated the top offensive club in the conference and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Quenneville, who preached balance the entire season, went in the other direction.

Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, who normally skate on the second line, were placed on the flanks of captain Jonathan Toews to reunite the "Super Line." That trio proved to be dynamic, and the Blackhawks staged a second-round comeback with three straight victories.

Not to be forgotten was another big move, one that helped make the "Super Line" strategy work and continues to pay dividends after Sharp and Kane returned to the second unit for the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings. Quenneville made veteran Michal Handzus, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the NHL Trade Deadline, his new No. 2 center.

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