The 2012-13 NHL Western Conference final series should prove to be an epic matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. The Kings are reigning Stanley Cup champions, winning their first ever in 2011-12 with a victory over the New Jersey Devils. The Blackhawks won the Cup in 2009-10, their first since 1960-61, stomping out the hopes of the New Jersey Devils in six games.
Los Angeles entered the National Hockey League for the 1967-68 season, while Chicago has been around since 1926. Surprisingly, the Kings and Blackhawks have met just once before in the post season. In 1973-74, the teams faced off in the quarter-finals with Chicago prevailing, four games to one.
In 1973-74, Chicago placed second in the West Division to the Philadelphia Flyers and third overall with the Boston Bruins taking the top seed. The Blackhawks won 41 of 78 games and finished with 105 points. Los Angeles was one position behind Chicago but 27 points away. The Kings won 33 of 78 games and were an even-steven .500 with 78 points.
For the Los Angeles Kings, it was the first time to the post season since 1968-69. Ironically, for Chicago, 1968-69 was the only time from 1958-59 to 1996-97 that the team did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. An amazing run, considering they won the championship just once over that period.
Los Angeles was coached by Bob Pulford and the Blackhawks had Billy Reay behind the bench. Pulford, a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 1991, coached the Kings from 1972-73 to 1976-77. Ironically, he coached Chicago off and on from 1977-78 to 1999-00. Bob played in the NHL from 1956-57 to 1971-72. Nearly all of his career was spent with the Toronto Maple Leafs, with exception of his final two which saw him play for the Kings. Billy Reay was head coach in Chicago from 1963-64 to 1976-77. He played nearly 500 games in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.
The 1973-74 quarter-final series came down to a battle between two legendary goaltenders. Offensively, Chicago was led by Stan Mikita and the Kings had Butch Goring. However, it was with Rogie Vachon for Los Angeles and Tony Esposito for Chicago that the true battle was fought.
Esposito and Vachon both played four of the five games in the series. Chicago won all four with Tony in net. Esposito allowed just two goals in the series and handed Los Angeles a pair of 1-0 shutouts. In the game that the Kings won, both Esposito and Vachon were on the bench because of back-to-back games. In the nets were Mike Veisor for the Blackhawks and Gary Edward for the Kings. L.A. won that game 5-1.
During the regular season, the two teams met six times. Chicago won three, Los Angeles won one and there were two ties. In each of the three Chicago wins, Esposito earned a shutout. The three shutouts against Los Angeles accounted for nearly a third of his season total of ten.
After Cliff Koroll scored the only goal during the entire game five, the Blackhawks advanced to the semi-finals against the Boston Bruins. Boston won the series in six games but fell in the finals in the same number of games to the Philadelphia Flyers. For Philadelphia, it was the first of two consecutive championships and the only two in the franchise’s history.