5 Storylines to Follow in NHL Western Conference Finals

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5 Storylines to Follow in NHL Western Conference Finals

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks will meet the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals, and it’s sure to be a doozy. The Kings have been riding the coattails of the playoff powerhouse that is goaltender Jonathan Quick. Quick leads all playoff goaltenders in goals against average at 1.50, save percentage at .948 and has tallied three shutouts.

The Blackhawks power play unit has had a little trouble keeping the pressure on their opponents lately. They’re going to need to start capitalizing on those opportunities if they hope to give Quick problems. The Blackhawks are averaging 2.75 goals per game in the playoffs compared to 3.10 in the regular season. The Kings have been scoring 20 percent of the time on their man-advantages, but will need to figure out a way to be more effective in full-strength situations.

The Blackhawks and Kings both needed seven games to get through their conference semi-final, so neither team will have any extra days off. Both teams played Game 7 of their previous series on their own ice.

The Kings will have to figure out a way to win at least one road game if they hope to take down the President’s Trophy-winning Hawks. That may be easier said than done with the Kings. They weren’t able to win any road games in their previous series. The Kings have only scored eight goals on the road this season. They’ll have to figure out a way to get their offense going on the road if they hope to have a chance of taking down the Blackhawks.

David Fouty is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @davefouty

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Can Slava Voynov Continue Effectiveness?

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Kings' defenseman Slava Voynov has been effective assisting the offence. He's been tough to cover for opposing teams because he's an active skater when his team has the puck. Voynov currently holds a plus/minus rating of +7 in the playoffs, good for second best in the NHL.

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Blackhawks Need to Show More Discipline

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Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Toews had a few tough games in the series against the Detroit Red Wings in which he committed a couple bad penalties. Andrew Shaw nearly cost his team a Western Conference Final berth with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty at the end of the period in Game 7 against Detroit.

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Jonathan Quick Must Be Lights Out for Kings

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Jonathan Quick is back to playing his best hockey now that his team is deep in the playoffs. Quick was a majority of the reason the Kings won the cup last season, and he's trying to repeat the performance. Most of the Kings' playoff games have been very tight match ups, and Quick has definitely been the MVP for his team.

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Blackhawks Power Play Needs to Get Going

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Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Of the four teams remaining, the Blackhawks have the lowest powerplay-conversion percentage at 16.2 percent. They were forced to juggle their lines in their last series, which may have had an effect on their power play effectiveness.

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Can Home-Ice Advantage Be Broken?

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Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings are a different team in Los Angeles than they are on the road. They won't have the luxury of playing four games on their own ice, so they'll have to figure out a way to step up their game on the road. The Kings were 8-12-4 on the road during the regular season compared to 19-4-1 at home.

The Blackhawks have scored more than twice as many goals at home in the playoffs as they have on the road. They've only scored one power play goal on the road in five playoff games. It is vital for the Kings to win one of the first two games in Chicago. Giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead in the series would likely put them on a roll that wouldn't be stopped.

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