Kings vs. Blackhawks Poll + Playoff Watch Thread

[SOME SORT OF KANE PUN] - USA TODAY Sports

Begun, the final four has.

[UPDATE, sort of: This thread was posted for Saturday's games, but it will do for Sunday too.]

No matter what you think of the four remaining teams (as a rule, it's probably somewhere between indifference and hatred), hockey fans should be in for two very good conference final series.

No one has Cinderella'd there way to the third round, and no one is battling (known) injuries that should cripple their chances.

The Penguins have shown that, when their stars are healthy and Marc-Andre Fleury is kept safely away from the crease, they can continue their high scoring without bleeding goals the other way.

The Bruins have shown that they have enough depth behind Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, as they did in their 2011 Cup run, to compete with anyone. Also: Torey Krug out of left field.

The Blackhawks and Kings have each shown that they have ways to win even when their stars are kept off the scoresheet. For the Hawks, that comes via overwhelming depth. For the Kings, that comes via depth but also the heroics of Jonathan Quick.

The Kings had a brutally physical series with the Blues in the opening round, and their second-round series with the Sharks was carefully and well played by both sides. The Hawks eased their way past the Wild in the opening round and then had to storm back from a 3-1 deficit to take the more possession-oriented series against the Red Wings.

The thing is, the Kings have proven quite adept at the possession game as well as up for the battle if you want to go hit for hit with them. The Hawks won't want to do that, but if they start to trail and decide to play that kind of bitter game (out of frustration or whatever), the Kings and Quick probably won't blink. Despite the Hawks' impressive season, I'd give the nod to the Kings. However, maybe Chicago's home ice helps tip that balance the other way though.

Meanwhile, whoever survives this series...will they have any trouble against the East in the two conferences' first and only encounter of the season?

How about you? Vote, comment, explain, treat this as the Saturday night playoff thread if you're watching. Both conference finals series begin tonight, because lockout or circus or something.

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