For the seventh time in these playoffs, a series will come down to a pivotal Game Seven as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals Sunday night at United Center.
It will be the third Game Seven of the postseason for L.A., who climbed out of a 3-0 hole against San Jose and erased a 3-2 deficit versus Anaheim. While they’ve needed their backs against the wall in order to advance, the Kings have thoroughly responded to the added pressure by lighting up the Sharks 5-1 in the final game on the road, and the Ducks 6-2 also away.
It’s the first Game Seven for Chicago since last year’s second round comeback against Detroit en route to the Stanley Cup. The winner moves on to face the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers in the Cup Finals beginning Wednesday.
As of now the Blackhawks have all the momentum after staving off elimination with two straight narrow victories, highlighted by hero right winger Patrick Kane. Notching one point in the first four games, Kane’s bounced back with two goals and five assists in the last two wins.
In Games Five and Six L.A. has either maintained or built a lead heading into the third period, only to see Chicago come back each time. In Game Five the Kings were up 4-3 but saw Blackhawks right wing Ben Smith tie things up in the third, and 37-year-old center Michal Handzus flip a backhanded winning goal in double-overtime. Kane would assist four of the five goals scored in the 5-4 win.
Kane would assist Duncan Keith on his game-tying goal halfway through the third period of Game Six, and then notch the winner himself.
Still Chicago's heroics might not be enough for an L.A. squad that’s 6-0 in elimination games this postseason. The Kings top scorers in Justin Williams, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards each scored in the first period of the Game Seven win over Anaheim, and goalie Jonathan Quick came up with 25 saves.
Williams, Richards and Marian Gaborik each have 6-0 records in Game Sevens, with Williams scoring six goals and assisting another six. Against San Jose, Quick also turned back 39 of 40 shots, his second best mark of the postseason.
Though not playing his best of late, Chicago keeper Corey Crawford has been equally impressive in elimination games. In Game Six against St. Louis in the first round, he allowed one goal while stopping 35 shots in the 5-1 win. When Chicago played Minnesota, he again allowed only one goal and made 34 saves.
Start Time: Sunday, 8 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: Chicago -1.5
Over/Under: 5 goals
Prediction: Chicago over LA 4-2