May 30, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) controls the puck against the defense of Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik (12) during the third period in game six of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
It would be a comeback of the most dramatic variety. The type of comeback that is already on the Chicago Blackhawk’s resume, after they came back from being down 3-1 in last years’s Western Conference Semi-Finals, against the Detroit Red Wings.
The only difference is that this Los Angeles Kings squad that the Blackhawks are up against is a superior team to last year’s Red Wings.
All of the momentum and home-ice advantage is on the Blackhawk’s side, but only a fool would think that they are already on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Things look good, yes, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.
[table id=69 /]
The Kings have fared better than the Hawks throughout the playoffs and it has continued through this series as well. One thing that is worrisome is that the Kings have controlled possession, for the most part throughout the series. Both teams fancy themselves as possession based teams, and the fact that the Kings have been superior in that category(Corsi and Faceoffs) is something to worry about. The most important thing for the Hawks is to win faceoffs and stay out of the penalty box. If they do both regularly, they should be on their way to the Finals.
The Kings have been on the wrong side of 2 consecutive dramatic, hard-fought hockey games. Two games that could have gone either way, as well as two games where they could have punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals. The let-down has to be brutal and it is absolutely weighing on the Kings right now. How will they react? That’s the big question. The Kings are no strangers to Game 7s as they are 2-0 in playoff Game 7s on the road. So, this isn’t unfamiliar territory for them.
Where Drew Doughty goes, so do the Kings. The superstar defenseman does it all. He will likely be on the ice for half the game, if not more. When he’s not on the ice, the Kings show vulnerability. The top-line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Marian Gaborik has been neutralized for the most part, but has been a vital line at the same time, for the Kings. They have been neutralizing the Hawks’ top-line as well, while mainly sacrificing their offense in the name of defense. The offense has largely fallen onto the “That 70s Line” of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson. This line has been spectacular this series. If they struggle to find the net, while the top-line remains busy, the Kings could be in trouble.
In net will be Jonathan Quick, of course. Quick is an elite goaltender that has proved to be human in this series. He has made some big saves to keep the Kings in games, but has a very “meh” .906 Save Percentage, this post-season. He does have the ability to steal a game every now and then, though.
The Hawks are rolling and have zero time to stop and admire their wonderful tenacity, because Game 7 won’t be easy. The fact that it’s in Chicago is wonderful, but if you remember Game 5 was in Chicago, and that game went to double overtime, where either team could have easily won. This game could be just like that.
While the top-line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Bryan Bickell has been busy with Kopitar and co. they have made some noise, but their defense has been much appreciated. Like the Kings, scoring has fallen to the others. The others being Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, and Andrew Shaw. This line has been the difference in the past two games. Largely due to Kane’s play-making ability that the Kings have yet to find an answer for. Duncan Keith will likely play half the game like Doughty. Keith’s active stick allows him the steal the puck right off the Kings’ sticks, in the most frustrating of ways. This will be highly important tonight, as the Kings will be coming hard, and are already desperate and frustrated. Adding more frustration will likely mean Power Plays for the Hawks. Patrick Sharp finally looked like Patrick Sharp in Game 6. More of this please.
In net will be Corey Crawford, obviously. Crawford has an excellent Game 6 after a dismal Game 5 and pretty much whole series. Crow will need to be on his game tonight, especially if the Kings are able to control possession like they have the whole series.
Things look great for the Hawks, right now. Momentum, home-ice advantage, and an opponent searching for answers. That opponent however, is the Kings, who have either blown out or been nearly inches away from victories all series. Statistically the Kings have the advantage. That’s not saying the Hawks aren’t the favorite to win, because they are. They just haven’t won it yet, so let’s keep this one game at a time mind-set going. Let’s get it done!