West's new rivalry? Blackhawks have ruled Kings without rising tension
The Blackhawks and Kings are meeting for the second straight Western final. Do we have our next big rivalry then? So far that element hasn't really come through.
For the second straight season the Western Conference finals are pitting the Chicago Blackhawks against the Los Angeles Kings. It's the fourth time in five seasons that the West final has featured at least one of the two.
This is how hockey rivalries are born. You don't have to be in the same division for that kind of friction. Repeated playoff battles usually breed contempt. All you have to do is look back a couple of seasons ago to another Blackhawks rivalry born out of playoff matchups, their battle with the Vancouver Canucks.
Roberto Luongo is probably still hearing Chelsea Dagger over and over.
In that rivalry the stakes weren't as high as they have been between the West's two pre-eminent powers these days. That might make you think the cauldron were bubbling between the Kings and Hawks but still, the rivalry doesn't seem to be building between two of America's three biggest cities and their hockey teams.
No doubt it's been good hockey, it just hasn't really been nasty hockey. Joel Quenneville addressed that very issue on Tuesday.
"I think both teams have a lot of respect for one another," he said. "I think special teams could make a difference in the outcome. I think being intelligent and disciplined is going to have a lot to say about who's going to be out on top.
"But I think both teams, they play hard. Both teams have skill. But both teams, you know, have some physicality within their lineup that you're comfortable with. The nastiness, if we play hard during the whistle, that's what we look for. That's what we talk about and stress. I think we don't want to be deterred from where we have to go to be successful.
As Quenneville alludes, the Blackhawks aren't known for their nastiness or their physical play. They have guys capable of that style, but it's not their calling card. The same can pretty much be said for the Kings, though they have a bit more edge to their game. Let's put it this way; neither team seems to bring out that element in the other.
Sometimes all a series needs to have those rivalry buds sprout is for one powder keg moment, that one incident that ignites the fire in them both. Sometimes it needs Claude Lemieux on Kris Draper. Repeated matchups won't do it by their lonesome, it takes a bit more.
One factor that isn't helping foster a rivalry here is that this series has been completely one-sided over the past four years. Including their playoff battles, the Blackhawks have a record of 17-4-1 against the Kings going back to the calendar hitting 2010. In the playoffs the Blackhawks now have a 5-1 edge in recent battles and held a 3-0 lead this regular season.
Old wisdom dictates it's not a rivalry unless both sides are winning and for whatever reason, the Kings aren't winning.
At least not yet. Obviously there is a lot of time left in this series as they will meet for Game 2 on Wednesday in Chicago, time for this series to start to realize its rivalry potential and if not this year then there are probably still years to come of these two being at or near the top of the West.
In the meantime we'll just have to deal with watching two of the very best hockey teams playing good, clean, skilled hockey. Shucks.
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