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Saturday, June 22

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Blackhawks Mon Jun 03 2013

L.A. Story: Hawks Up 2-0 in Western Conference Finals

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png It can't be this easy, can it? The Hawks are up 2-0 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, after holding home court at the United Center on back-to-back nights (thank you very much, Rolling Stones) this past weekend.

It's possible the backhand the Hawks received across the back of their collective heads from the Detroit Red Wings woke them up in time for Darryl Sutter's bunch in these Western Conference Finals. Brent Seabrook is back to his old self, Bryan Bickell is doing his best 2010 Dustin Byfuglien impression, and Jonathan Toews isn't throwing tantrums on the ice. A perfect recipe for a 2-1 win in Game 1 and a 4-2 win in Game 2.

And while Patrick Sharp leads the team in scoring during this current playoff run (8 Goals, 6 assists for 14 points; a +6 on the ice), it's clear the man who is responsible for the Hawks still playing this far into June is none other than Corey Crawford. The Crow has received a lot of criticism coming into this postseason as a goalie who might lack the wherewithal to stop an onslaught of shots in a seven-game series, where the intensity level steps up and bigger bodies step in front of the net.

Crawford's playoff line is so good right now it might earn him a starting gig as Canada's starting goalie for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Through 14 games, Crawford is 10-4 with a .938 GAA. Not to mention, he's been superb on the penalty kill as he and his teammates have wiped 45 of 47 chances from opponents -- an astounding 95.7 percent.

The trip to L.A. is one that has a lot of fans worried, and as well they should. The Kings are a perfect 7-0 at home during the postseason, and try not to forget that this team also was down two games to none in the first round against the Blues, and now, T.J. Oshie, Jay Bouwmeester and Vladimir Sobotka are watching at home.

The Hawks would do themselves a lot of good by taking at least one of these next two games in Los Angeles. They should expect a mad rush from the likes of An┼że Kopitar and Dustin Brown to the net and another increase in shots on goal. The Hawks still lead in shots after two games 62-53, but the Kings outshot the Hawks 31-26 in Game 2.

And yes, Jonathan Quick was lifted after surrendering four goals in Game 2, but he's sure to rebound and return to form which won him the Conn Smythe Trophy during the 2012 playoff run. The Hawks have beaten him short-side and off rebounds, so look for an adjustment. But it's safe to say everyone picked the wrong goalie who would give the opposing offense fits before this series began.

The postseason script continues to be written by the Hawks, and what seems like forever ago when they opened the lockout-shortened season in Los Angeles on a frigid afternoon in Chicago on Saturday, January 19, with a 5-2 win, has fast-forwarded to a (kind of) warm early-June with a team on the precipice of bringing home another Cup. They just need to escape from L.A. first.

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