May 26, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) makes a save against Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) during the third period in game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
It’s come down to this.
After such a promising start to the Western Conference Finals, the Chicago Blackhawks very well could be preparing for their final game of hockey, until preseason starts for the 2014-2015 season. The Los Angeles Kings have rallied from losing Game 1 to once again winning 3 games in a row for the 3rd time, this post-season, to put the defending Stanley Cup Champs on the brink of elimination.
It’s not over yet, though.
The series heads back to Chicago, for Game 5, where the Hawks have lost only once, all playoffs.
If the Hawks are able to pull out a win, in Game 5, the series would head back to Los Angeles, for Game 6, where the Kings are “only” 5-3. Good, but far from invincible.
If everything works out just right, for the Hawks and they win Game 6, Game 7 will be back in Chicago, giving the Hawks home-ice advantage for the deciding game.
One game at a time though.
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As you can see, the Kings have pretty much bested the Hawks in every category, this post-season. The Hawks do have a better Penalty Kill Percentage, but they have given the Kings more than their fair-share of Power Play chances, and the Kings eventually make them pay. Special Teams is what has put the Hawks on the brink of elimination and the Kings one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals. A nearly automatic Power Play and an extremely stingy Penalty Kill have given the Kings the edge, in this series.
The Kings still have a job to do. They can’t just sit back and coast their way through the rest of the series. If they do that, the Hawks just may climb their way back in it. This is the first time the Kings have had a sizable lead and being one win away from advancing, this post-season. Against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, they were forced to come back and win 3 and 2 games while facing elimination, respectively, to advance to the Western Conference Finals. This series is the opposite, and it remains to be seen how they will handle it. They have nothing to worry about as long as “that 70s line” of Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, and Jeff Carter keep producing the way the have. If Hawks fans weren’t sure what the big deal with Drew Doughty was before this series, they surely do now.
In net will once again be Jonathan Quick, for the Kings. Quick had a shaky game, in Game One, but has since rebounded and made big saves when the Kings have needed him to.
The Hawks have been here before. Being down 3-1 in a series and coming back, is something they’ve done before, but it doesn’t make it any more likely to happen again. However, it’s still not over yet. Duncan Keith will need to rebound after a disastrous Game 4, as the Hawks most used player cannot be turning the puck over in dangerous areas on the ice as regularly as he did. Brent Seabrook also needs to shore some things up, as well. Seabrook allowed the Kings to form screens, in front of the net, an area where he usually uses his physicality and size to prevent such things. Patrick Kane needs to score and he needs to score now. It’s not for lack of effort or anything though. Once Kane score, it should open the offensive flood gates which would go a long ways in turning this series around. You really can’t say a lot of negatives, if any, about how Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have played. Both have been creating chances and been defensively responsible, as usual. The Hawks will need to avoid the dumb penalties, if they want to come back, or at least win Game 5. I’m looking at you, Andrew Shaw.
In net will once again be Corey Crawford, for the Hawks. Crawford has had a rough series after what has been a tremendous playoffs. Crawford had been making big saves, all post-season long, but has seemingly stopped doing that, throughout the last 3 games.
It’s not over yet, but the end feels near. It can be turned around, but it isn’t likely. If the Hawks are to turn it around, they will have to take it one shift, and one game at a time, and then go from there. It isn’t impossible, so let’s do it!