Offense and defense are what wins championships in the NHL – or any sport really. Unequivocally, both phases separate playoff teams from champions. Yet, sustaining personnel that retains a perfect stylistic balance is what separates champions from dynasties.
Both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings find themselves in the midst of a fight for their own division as well as control of home ice during the Western Conference playoffs. While the Kings have been in Chicago since Sunday, the Blackhawks returned on Sunday and will be playing their third game in the past four nights on Monday.
This matchup pits the league’s best offense against the best defense, with Chicago averaging 3.73 goals per game and Los Angeles remaining the only team in the NHL to allow fewer than two goals per game at 1.97.
Defensively, Chicago continues to remain in the middle of the pack, and is now ranked 15th in the league allowing 2.68 goals per game. Yet, their offense remains immaculate regardless of the opponent. Despite facing two top-11 defenses over the course of two nights, the Blackhawks scored 12 goals in the past two games.
While Anze Kopitar is the only man on the Kings roster to have topped 30 points, the Blackhawks have five players over that mark, including defenseman Duncan Keith who has six assists in his past three games.
In short, the Blackhawks have statistically the best offense and a 15th-ranked defense. The Kings, meanwhile, boast the best defense and an offense that is ranked 16th. So, with two teams that have opposite styles and stats, what will decide Monday’s matchup?
The answer is likely Martin Jones. Antti Raanta may yet get the call once again despite looking a bit fatigued, meaning it will be a rookie goaltender duel. While Jones has faced some very good offenses, Chicago could possibly faze him early. Not only has Jones not played in a week, but he has cooled down a bit, allowing four goals on 23 shots his last time out. His success and the resulting momentum it creates for one team will likely determine the result of the game.
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