And then there were four.
For those hockey traditionalists wanted another all-Original Six Stanley Cup Final, they wouldn't be too keen on seeing the Los Angeles Kings win another round this spring. But the silver-and-black have their own agenda and that includes doing what they can to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, avenging last year's Western Final exit.
The Kings are coming off a thrilling seven-game series victory over the Anaheim Ducks and earlier, coming back from an 0-3 series deficit to knock off the San Jose Sharks in Round 1.
Having played 14 of a possible 14 games thus far, one would argue that the silver-and-black are fatigued entering the Western Final. Their opponents, however, took 12 games to win their first two series: first versus the St. Louis Blues and then the Minnesota Wild. But as much momentum as the Kings may have entering Round 3, they start their next series in Chicago at the United Center where, in these playoffs, the Blackhawks are a perfect 6-0.
In addition to their perfect home record this postseason, the Hawks also boast a perfect 3-0-0 record against Los Angeles Kings during the regular season, with two of them coming in the Windy City.
Los Angeles played in Chicago twice in December, losing both times. Of course, Jonathan Quick did not appear in either of those games. Former King Ben Scrivens lost 3-1 on December 15 while Martin Jones fell on the short end of a 1-0 loss on December 30. Jonathan Quick did make an appearance against the Hawks on February 3, but lost by a 5-3 count at Staples Center.
But since the Hawks and Kings last visited, the silver-and-black transformed into a whole new team thanks (many believe) in large part to the NHL's Olympic break they seemed to be so thankful to have.
This season against the Kings, Patrick Kane had two goals with captain Jonathan Toews led the way with four assists. But while Los Angeles couldn't muster any success against the Blackhawks this season, the two most recent Cup champs met just over a month before the Kings acquired Marian Gaborik from Columbus.
Since the arrival of the Slovak veteran, Gaborik has rediscovered his game most thought had been gone for years. After scoring five goals and 11 assists in 19 games with the Kings to finish the regular season, Gaborik stepped up his game in the playoffs as he currently leads all playoff scorers with nine goals. As for his new linemate, Anze Kopitar isn't too far behind. In fact, entering the West Final, Kopitar leads the league this spring in assists (14), points (19) and plus/minus (+8).
Entering the West Final, however, it is Chicago netminder Corey Crawford who leads all playoff goaltenders with a 1.97 goals-against average. His counterpart, Jonathan Quick, enters this series with a 2.72 GAA. It may be much to write home about but No. 32 has proven that he plays better as the season goes along. So, don't expect anything less in this series.
The Los Angeles Kings may have turned it on when it counted most, playing their best hockey of the season when facing elimination, but they will need to play a much better, more consistent game against these Chicago Blackhawks.
In last year's Western Final, the Blackhawks were up against the Stanley Cup champions and beat them in five games before ultimately winning their second Cup in four years. This year, the Kings hope to do the same, eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Whether it's in five, six or seven games, the Kings simply want to win four games before the Blackhawks do. But the Hawks have no intentions of giving up their crown that easily.
It's going to be a fight to the finish - and we'll be there every step of the way.
Enjoy the series!