The Western Conference Finals in the NHL come to a game 7, as the Chicago Blackhawks hope to complete their comeback from two games down as they find themselves back on home ice thanks to two dramatic wins including finally getting one on the road. The Los Angeles Kings haven’t had anything easy for them in these playoffs, so what’s another game seven for them to try and survive?
The Kings might become the first team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals after playing in three game seven’s: They came back from 0-3 down against the San Jose Sharks in the conference quarterfinals, they bounced back from 2-3 down against the Anaheim Ducks and now they find themselves in a slightly different situation: Trying not to lose for a third time after going 3-1 up in the series thanks to some fantastic offense in games 2 through 4.
A big difference in the last two games compared to the losses for the Blackhawks was Patrick Kane. The 25 year old was checked hard and well by the Kings through the first four games of the series, but he has been managing to finally find some open ice an with that open teammates to change the face of this series. He had four assists in the double overtime win in game 5, and provided the most crucial of touches in the dramatic 4-3 win in game 6.
Kane set up Duncan Keith for the equalizer and with 3:45 left in the game hit the game winner, capping off a two-goal, one assist performance. Now the Blackhawks need one more big performance from him in order to make it back to the Cup Finals. Last year the Blackhawks came back from 1-3 down against the Red Wings in the conference semifinals to go all the way, which included beating the Kings in five during the conference finals.
One important aspect will be making the most of power plays. The Kings commit more penalties than the Blackhawks, but have taken advantage in 26.2% of their power play situations, while the Blackhawks are only 19.2% in the playoffs. Last game they finally evened things out, and making the most of those opportunities while doing a little better with their penalty kill units might be once again the key.
The Kings are 6-0 this season when facing elimination, while the Blackhawks have won nine of their last 11 elimination games. In a series that has a lot less bad blood than the one the Rangers came out of in the East, the hockey has also been better, and for probably the first time in this series, getting Patrick Kane open means the Blackhawks are the ones playing the better kind. Keeping him and Jonathan Toews with relative freedom is going to mean win or lose with everything on the line.