The Chicago Blackhawks have already shuck off elimination once, but they’ll have to overcome their porous postseason road record in order to do it again.
Ahead of Friday’s Game Six of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings in front of a raucous Staples Center, Chicago knows full well they’ll have to be better than their 2-6 away mark in these playoffs. Four of the Blackhawks last five letdowns have been away from the friendly confines of United Center, but this is the same team that dispatched Minnesota in the previous round on the road in six games.
The Kings are up 3-2, and would clearly like to avoid a Game Seven back in Chicago, where the Blackhawks are far better at 8-1 this postseason. Comparatively, L.A. has been split both home and away with a 7-5 record on the road paralleled by a 5-3 mark at Staples.
Whoever moves on will face the New York Rangers, who dispatched Montreal after six games Thursday, for a shot at the Stanley Cup. If successful, L.A. would reach its second Finals in the last three years, by far the best stretch in the franchise’s history. The Blackhawks have made back-to-back trips to the Finals once, back in 1961 and 1962.
Chicago stayed alive after 37-year-old center Michal Handzus fired a backhand shot past Kings keeper Jonathan Quick in the second overtime of Game Five, and right wing Patrick Kane came to life with four assists in the 5-4 victory. Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad also chipped in with his fifth goal of the playoffs and two more assists, while Kane came up with his best game of these playoffs after netting one point in the previous four contests combined.
The Kings attack continued to look strong and took a 4-3 lead in Game Five after Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson each recorded their fourth goals of the playoffs in the second period, but the team’s next 19 shots in the final three periods fell just short.
Much of the credit falls to the Blackhawks defense for finally slowing an L.A. attack that had racked up 15 goals in the previous three games. Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival were the only Blackhawk defensemen to walk away from Game Five with a positive plus-minus, both a plus-2, while goalie Corey Crawford redeemed himself by making 40 saves off 44 shots, his second-best total since the 48-save gem against St. Louis in Game One of the opening round.
Quick was equally as impressive, tying Crawford in total saves for Game Five while setting a new playoff high for this year.
L.A. will of course try to find the offensive rhythm it used in Games Two through Four, especially on the power play. The Kings went 0-for-3 with a man advantage in Game Five, compared to a stunning 5-for-12 effort in the first four games.
The Kings top scorers of Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams went 1-for-13 on their shots on goal in Game Five, with Gaborik the lone successor with his 11th goal of the playoffs.
Start Time: Friday, 9 p.m. EST
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Online Stream Info: A live online stream is available at NBC Live Extra here
Betting Odds: Kings -1.5
Over/Under: 5 goals
Prediction: L.A. over Chicago, 3-1