Minutes after the Kings raised their 2012 Stanley Cup championship banner before the season opener, the Blackhawks jumped on the defending champs and scored three first-period goals, shocking what had been a roaring standing-room crowd for the Kings’ pregame celebration.
The Blackhawks now will look to repeat that again as their Western Conference finals series with the Kings moves to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Tuesday. The Blackhawks lead the series 2-0 after consecutive wins in Chicago, but the Kings have owned their home ice throughout the playoffs, posting a 7-0 mark at Staples Center through the first two rounds.
“A long time since we played here,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said at the team’s hotel in Los Angeles on Monday. “A special day when we began the season here for them. They played well here all season long. I think the starts are going to be important to the game. Let's be sure we take care of what we have to take care of. We expect a hard game. Physically, they come after you. We want to make sure we're smart in that area and be proactive as well.”
The Blackhawks have fared well on the road most of the season. They were a league-best 18-4-2 on the road during the regular season. They’ve gone 2-3 on the road in the playoffs.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp thinks it is especially difficult to play the first road game of a series. The Blackhawks lost on the road in Game 3 to the Minnesota Wild in the first round and on the road in Game 3 to the Detroit Red Wings in the second round.
“It's a lot different playing away from the United Center,” Sharp said. “I feel like we've been solid on the road the last couple years in the playoffs. The team gets home for that first game, the crowd's into it, kind of gives that extra push.”
The Blackhawks would like to duplicate their hot start in the season opener against the Kings or the one they got in Game 2 of their series on Sunday, when they scored twice in the first period on their way to a 4-2 win.
“I would think everybody would like to score in the first shift,” Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook. “It definitely creates momentum for us, stuff like that. We've prided ourselves in having a good start, trying to continue that throughout the game. I think we've done a good job, you know, especially in this round, coming out with good starts. We've got to continue to do that.”
The Blackhawks aren’t feeling overconfident with a 2-0 series lead, though. They know a series isn’t over until one team wins four games. The Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in the second round to defeat the Red Wings, and the Kings lost the first two games on the road against the St. Louis Blues before winning four straight in their first-round series.
“We're up 2-0 in the series,” Seabrook said. “You look back at the St. Louis series. They were up 2-0 coming to L.A. We got to continue to focus on the game [Tuesday]. They're a great team, L.A. [Jonathan] Quick is a great goaltender. We understand he's going to come back with a better game than he did [in Game 2]. We have to continue to get pucks to him and make it tough on him.”