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Kings crow that they are ‘built for the playoffs’

Mike Richards (center) scored one three first-period goals for Kings 6-2 series-clinching victory over Ducks. | Getty Images

Mike Richards (center) scored one of three first-period goals for the Kings in a 6-2 series-clinching victory over the Ducks. | Getty Images

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Updated: June 23, 2014 12:59PM



With all due respect to the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild, the Blackhawks are taking a step up in class against the Los Angeles Kings.

Don’t let the Kings’ third-place finish in the Pacific Division — or their loss to the Blackhawks in five games in the Western Conference final last season — fool you. The Hawks would be well advised to be ready for the actual challenge at hand: beating a championship team that knows how to win in the postseason like no other team in the NHL — except the Blackhawks.

“We’re built for the playoffs,” defenseman Drew Doughty said after the Kings embarrassed the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 in Game 7 in Anaheim on Friday night. “I don’t know the reason why, but we’re always ready when it really counts.”

Indeed they are. The Kings come in with a Hawks-like resume of postseason success built on mental toughness under coach Darryl Sutter. They became the first No. 8 seed in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup in 2012. They are 8-1 in postseason series over the past three seasons. Already this season, the Kings overcame a 3-0 series deficit to beat San Jose and a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Ducks.

“We’ve got to be focused on what they’ve been doing the last couple of series,” Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “They’re never out of a game or a series. If we get up, we have to step on their throats. If we’re down, we have to work like hell to get back.”

The Kings seem to have the Hawks’ attention, but we’ll see about that. They Hawks have a history of proportionate responses based on the perceived threat. They insisted they were not taking the Wild lightly. But Patrick Kane was lamenting yet another “wake-up call” after losing Game 3. “Winning six games in a row, maybe we were overconfident,” Kane said.

Something will have to give in a clash of teams that know how to win in the postseason. The Kings are 7-1 when facing elimination; the Hawks are 11-2 with a chance to clinch. The Kings are 7-1 against higher-seeded teams under Sutter; The Hawks are 9-0 against lower-seeded teams under Joel Quenneville.

But when it comes to mental toughness and winning when it counts in the postseason, the Hawks are the gold standard in the NHL. Over the past two seasons, 20 of their 35 playoff games have been tied in the third period — and they are 15-5 in those games.

They seem to always have the trump card, even against the Kings. In Game 5 of the conference final last year, Mike Richards tied the game with 9.4 seconds left in the regulation. But Kane won it in overtime.

But that was last year. The Kings are healthier and have added the dangerous Marian Gaborik (nine goals, 15 points through two rounds). The Hawks? They are a year older and expect to be a year better.

“We like our team,” Quenneville said. “We have the four-line rotation that’s solid. Our “D” is the exact same “D” we had last year. We have the same goalie we had last year. I think we’re at the same level we were at last year. But we like the momentum we have. We like the challenge that’s ahead of us.

“But L.A. Is going to be a tough opponent. I know we talked about underestimating Minnesota going into that series. There’s no way we’d think of underestimating [the Kings].”

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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