For the first time in the 204 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks will play in a must-win game, against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night. If they happen to win that game, it’s another must-win on Friday. And if the Blackhawks win again, it’s Game Seven on Sunday afternoon.
It goes without saying that the Blackhawks have been in better-looking situations before. However, when the team was bullied into a 1-3 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings 53 weeks ago, it was nowhere near quitting time. They pulled it off, won the series, and won the Cup. And thus, the city of Chicago has their rallying point.
After Game Four against the Red Wings last year, I sat down. I wasn’t worried, and I didn’t know why. I threw my jersey in the washing machine, and I wrote The Blackhawks Are Not Done Yet! Admittedly, I wasn’t planning on a second version anytime soon, but to ease the minds of fellow fans, I will plead my case once again.
The Blackhawks have been the most dominant team at home in the playoffs. Granted, it was the Kings that handed them their first loss at the United Center in the post-season in Game Two of the series, but the Blackhawks are set to get back on track, with the NHL’s most raucous crowd behind them. You don’t need a good memory to understand the importance of some Chicago cooking; the Blackhawks were down by an equal margin to the St. Louis Blues in the first round, as the series shifted north to Illinois. The Blackhawks not only won at home, but won four straight games, using two United Center victories to turn the tide of the series. It was the same case last season against the Wings, where the Blackhawks stopped the skid at the Madhouse, giving them ample confidence and momentum to swing the series back in their favour with Brent Seabrook‘s shot.
Statistically, not much favours a team down 1-3 in a series. The Blackhawks have been in this situation 12 times in their history, and last year’s series against Detroit was the only time that they had successfully pulled off the comeback. However, Chicago does have it better than most in the stats department, despite the bleak outlook. The Kings have lost three straight games in both of their previous series, and it is well-known that the Blackhawks play their best hockey in the late stages of a series. In fact, Chicago has a 75% win percentage in the last three games of the series since 2009. Three out of four. The Kings have also played two consecutive seven-game series, adding up for two more games than the Blackhawks.
Adversity is nothing new for this Blackhawks team, and in both Stanley Cup-winning years, the team had a bumpy road on the way to the eventual championship. From the Nashville Predators in 2010, to the Red Wings in 2013, winning three straight games without Brent Seabrook in the first round of 2014, winning on the road without Duncan Keith against the Kings last season, there isn’t much this Blackhawks team hasn’t faced, and conquered, before. Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Corey Crawford have all had sub-par series’ so far, but Game Five, Six, and Seven will demand the very best game that they have. If the Blackhawks tighten up in the defensive zone, and fix a few costly mistakes, they can easily take three straight games over the Kings, and be off to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in five seasons.