The Chicago Blackhawks are a victory away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings are kicking themselves.
All the Blackhawks needed was one mistake to ensure victory, and Marian Hossa illustrated why he is a top playoff contributor.
Marian Hossa blasted a one-timer past Jonathan Quick after a blown line change gave the Blackhawks space to start an odd-man rush. It stood up as the game-winning goal, and it gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 series lead.
The Kings scored first in Game 4, but miscalculations and missed opportunities cost them dearly. With the Blackhawks returning to the United Center, they will have a chance to finish the Kings off, but can the defending champions stave off elimination?
The Blackhawks take a 3-1 series lead w/ win over LA in Game 4. Since trailing Detroit 3-1 in Western Semifinals, Chicago's won 6 of 7.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 7, 2013
Time: Saturday, June 8 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: United Center, Chicago
Series: CHI leads LAK 3-1
TV: NBC Sports Network
Key Storyline: Blackhawks' Top Stars Are Finally Clicking
Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp have been playing well throughout the playoffs, but Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were not pulling their weight. In Game 4, Toews and Kane were reunited, and the dynamic duo made magic on the Blackhawks' tying goal.
There was a noticeable difference in each player's approach, and both were assertive and confident when they had the puck. Kane is coming off an amazing year, but for most of the playoffs, he's been passive with the puck.
Toews has had his own share of trouble throughout the playoffs, but he is finally starting to be a factor for the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have gotten to the point where they can roll four deep lines, and that gives them an edge that makes them almost unbeatable.
Key Matchup: Battle of the 2nd Lines
Each team's second line has been great throughout the series, and it will be a key factor in Game 5. The Blackhawks line of Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa has been great against the Kings all series. Michal Handzus has been a great two-way center, Sharp has thrived in all situations and Hossa has been an elite contributor.
Hossa knows when to score big goals http://t.co/iriIiB5RqU— ESPN Chicago (@ESPNChiHawks) June 7, 2013
The Kings' second line of Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli came into existence after Mike Richards left the lineup because of a concussion. It took a game for the line to gain some chemistry, but the trio has worked really well together.
Carter is primarily a winger, but he has experience at the center position. Penner has channeled his playoff form from last year, and Toffoli is thriving in the playoffs as a rookie. In Game 5, the second lines will go head-to-head, and it could determine which team is victorious.
The Kings need this line to generate offense, and the Blackhawks will need their line to play an effective two-way game. Both lines have strengths and weaknesses, and the matchup will be exciting to watch in Game 5.
Injury Report (via TSN)
Los Angeles Kings
Mike Richards: Missed Game 4 with concussion-like symptoms.
Blackhawks' Projected Lineup
Line 1: Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane
Line 2: Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus, Marian Hossa
Line 3: Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik
Line 4: Andrew Shaw, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg
Line 1: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Line 2: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya
Line 3: Michal Rozsival, Nick Leddy
Kings' Projected Lineup
Line 1: Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams
Line 2: Dwight King, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli
Line 3: Dustin Penner, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis
Line 4: Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser, Brad Richardson
Line 1: Drew Doughty, Robyn Regehr
Line 2: Rob Scuderi, Slava Voynov
Line 3: Matt Greene, Jake Muzzin
Blackhawks Will Win If...
The Blackhawks will advance to the Stanley Cup Final if they remain as aggressive as they were in Game 4. A big reason why the Blackhawks won Game 4 was because of their assertiveness with the puck.
Whenever the Blackhawks got the puck, they brought it into the zone and tried to generate offense, and that style suits the makeup of their roster.
The Blackhawks didn't play passive hockey, and they didn't give the Kings opportunities to dominate play. The Blackhawks did have some defensive breakdowns that led to two goals against, but it was their aggressiveness that allowed Marian Hossa to score the game-winning goal.
Game 5 is at the United Center, and Chicago will look to continue its dominance on home ice against the Kings. The Blackhawks are in prime position to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, and they realize the importance of ending the series as soon as possible.
Kings Will Win If...
The Kings force a Game 6 in Los Angeles if they are more careful. They will need to be careful in the smaller aspects of the game, because the fundamentals cost them in Game 4. Offensively, the Kings generated chances, they were defensively sound and Jonathan Quick made big saves.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have been missing, but L.A. almost won Game 4 without their contributions.
It was the little things like failing to clear the puck in front of the net and a botched line change that led to the tying and game-winning goals, respectively. If the Kings play their game and are smart with the puck, they will earn the chance to tie the series in Game 6.
Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks 2, Los Angeles Kings 1 (OT)
The Blackhawks will advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a victory in overtime. Game 5 is going to be close for both teams. The Blackhawks are going to want to close out the series, but they won't be overzealous in their pursuit of victory.
One bad bounce or one botched line change can lead to a goal against, and the Blackhawks don't want to give the Kings any room to stage a comeback. Conversely, the Kings want to be aggressive and gain some momentum, but they need to focus on the smaller facets of their game if they want to extend the series.
Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick will likely be at the top of their games, as both realize the importance of Game 5. As a team overall, Chicago is deeper and more skilled, and this will give it the advantage and edge to close out this series.