Locked in a classic back-and-forth series, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks have one more crucial game to decide who will advance to the Western Conference finals.
There are few things in sports more electrifying than an NHL Game 7, and this one has the potential to go down as a truly memorable battle.
The series has been extremely physical thus far. With the hard-hitting Kings at home, San Jose will ensure it is up to the challenge and advance to the next round.
Let's take a closer look at this decisive matchup.
When: Tuesday, May 28, 9 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
Watch: NBC Sports Network
How We Got Here
The short version is simple: The home team has held the advantage in every game so far, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
The home team has won all 6 games in the Sharks-Kings series, with the road team totaling 6 goals in those 6 games— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 27, 2013
Los Angeles got off to a commanding series lead with 2-0 and 4-3 victories at the Staples Center, but San Jose responded with a pair of 2-1 home victories, including Game 3's dramatic overtime thriller.
The Kings responded with an ascendant 3-0 win behind Jonathan Quick's seventh career playoff shutout, only for San Jose to once again answer with a 2-1 victory in Game 6.
And here we are.
Kings Player to Watch: Jonathan Quick
Sorry, rest of the NHL, but Quick is up to his old tricks, as the NHL's Twitter account points out:
Jonathan Quick has a 1.50 GAA, .948 spct & 3 shutouts in 11 playoff games. He finished 2012 Cup run w/ a 1.41 GAA, .946 spct & 3 shutouts.— NHL (@NHL) May 26, 2013
The 27-year-old netminder famously put together a staggeringly stingy performance during L.A.'s memorable, transcendent run through the playoffs last season, and for him to be mirroring those numbers is amazing.
Even more frightening for the Sharks, Quick has somehow improved on those numbers at home. In six games this postseason, he has given up just seven goals (1.17 GAA) with a save percentage of .957 in Los Angeles. During this particular series, he has a 1.00 GAA, a save percentage of .967 and two shutouts in three games.
Quick at home in the postseason is as close to an unbeatable force as you will get.
Sharks Player to Watch: Logan Couture
Logan Couture took a slight step back this season in terms of production, but the 24-year-old's play during the postseason is garnering him some powerful praise.
John Buccigross of ESPN shared his thoughts:
Logan Couture of the Sharks wasn't on the 2010 Canadian Olympic team but in my mind he is a lock for 2014.— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 27, 2013
After pouring in a ridiculous three goals and five assists in San Jose's four-game sweep of Vancouver, he has slowed down a bit in the conference finals, racking up just two goals and an assist in six games.
But while he is eighth in postseason points with an impressive 11 points in 10 games, Couture has an abysmal plus/minus of minus-six, which is far worse than anyone with close to that many points.
As such, the center will be crucial in Game 7. During San Jose's two shutout road losses, he was at his worst, going minus-two in Game 1 and minus-three in Game 5. When the Sharks were able to get to Quick for three goals on the road in Game 2, the talented Canadian had one assist and a plus/minus of zero.
San Jose's chances at advancing will hinge on Couture's play and production.
Who will advance?
I can't bet against Jonathan Quick—a guy who seems to thrive under pressure in what is one of the most pressure-filled events in sports. I just can't do it.
If it weren't for the posts working in Antti Niemi's favor, the aggressive Kings may have already closed this series out on the road in Game 6. This time around, they'll have the advantage.
Los Angeles 2, San Jose 0