On the brink of game one between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, where the Blackhawks defeated the Kings by a score of 3-1 what could be defined as a new age rivalry began once again.
This will be the second consecutive season where the teams have squared off in the Western Conference final and the last two Stanley Cups belong to each of them (Chicago last season, Los Angeles the season before).
Are the Kings and Blackhawks creating one of the best playoff rivalries of recent memory? They could be and the teams are similar in so many aspects that this series may be too close to call, but one thing that's certain is that it should be even-matched on many fronts.
Both teams have an incredible amount of depth at forward with the Kings being led by captain Dustin Brown, assistant captain Anze Kopitar and top-tier players Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik while the Blackhawks are led by perhaps the best captain in the game Jonathan Toews, along with assistant captain Patrick Sharp and snipers Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.
On defense, the Blackhawks may be a touch deeper with the likes of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the way, but you can't overlook the ability of Drew Doughty or the contributions that Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov have been making in the playoffs.
In net, Jonathan Quick isn't having the kind of playoffs he did when his team won the Cup, but he's still one of the most talented netminders in the game and Chicago has Corey Crawford, who is playing solid between the pipes once again for his squad, posting a goals against average of 1.90 in 13 games.
On the bench, the teams possess two of the best coaches of all-time. Chicago's Joel Quenneville sits third all-time in career regular season wins and fourth in career playoff wins, while Darryl Sutter is 16th all-time in career wins and ranks ninth all-time in career playoff wins. The knowledge and experience on both benches is exceptional and both coaches are Stanley Cup winners.
So whose going to take this series? If you look at the teams on paper, it's a real close call, but in the regular season the Blackhawks finished with seven more points than the Kings and Chicago owned the season series three games to none, so if this writer had to choose and was a betting man, he'd have to give the edge to the Windy City.
Series prediction, Chicago defeats Los Angeles in seven games, but expect a lot of one or two goal games. Yes, that's how tight of a series it's going to be.