Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings: Preview and Prediction for Game 4

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings: Preview and Prediction for Game 4
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The Los Angeles Kings are in a rare position heading into Game 4 of the Western Conference Final—they are leading the series.

The Chicago Blackhawks took Game 1, perhaps putting the Kings in their comfort zone, before dropping Games 2 and 3. As they often do, the Kings trailed in both games before rallying for their victories.

The only other time this postseason the Kings have led in a seriesbesides at the very endwas in the second round against the Anaheim Ducks. They won the first two games before dropping the next three.

The Kings will look to avoid continuing that trend by going for their third straight victory in Game 4 on Monday.

 

When: May 26, 9 p.m. ET

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

Watch: NBCSN, TSN, RDS

 

Blackhawks' Storylines

Changes on the Power Play

The Blackhawks went 0-for-4 with the man advantage in Game 3 and have not scored a road power-play goal in the playoffs since Game 1 of the first round against the St. Louis Blues.

For that reason, head coach Joel Quenneville will make some changes for Game 4. He told reporters on Sunday that couldn't explain the home/road discrepancy, but liked how the power play looked in practice:

It's tough to say exactly why. It shouldn't make much of a difference. You should be a little more comfortable at home. At the same time, on the road, we don't want to change what we're doing, how we're entering, what our objective is. I just think I liked today's practice. The power play, the way we're moving it around, we had a good buzz out there, a little pace to it. We're coming off a tough night; let's get excited about being out there and turning it around tomorrow.

The Blackhawks have seven power-play goals at home in the postseason, but are 1-for-21 on the road.

 

Will Corey Crawford Bounce Back?

He was shaky in the third period of Game 2 and not much better in Game 3. Over his past two starts, he's allowed nine goals on the past 43 shots he's faced for a .791 save percentage.

The tide has turned quickly against Crawford, who stopped 25 of 26 shots in a Game 1 victory.

The Blackhawks haven't played poorly in the past two games, but Crawford has sunk their standing in this series by allowing soft goals and failing to make big saves.

 

The Road to Nowhere

This is a recurring storyline, but the Blackhawks aren't just struggling with their power play on the road—they're struggling with everything on the road.

The Blackhawks were 19-14-8 (19 wins vs. 22 losses) on the road during the regular season and fell to 2-5 away from United Center in the postseason when they lost Game 3 in Los Angeles. The Blackhawks have been outscored 22-14 on the road in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks will need to win at least one game at Staples Center if they are to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

 

Kings' Storylines

The Pearson-Carter-Toffoli Line

The Kings' second line was outstanding again in Game 3, combining for two goals and three assists. Tofolli would have been credited with the winner if not for a Patrick Sharp goal in the final seconds.

Jeff Carter had a goal and two assists and has eight goals and 11 assists in these playoffs.

Longtime teammate Mike Richards spoke with reporters about Carter's current hot streak:

It goes back to the confidence thing. When you have confidence, it just seems like the net gets bigger, and when you don't have confidence it seems like it shrinks a little bit. He steps up in big times. He's a big goal scorer, and that whole line has created a lot for momentum of our hockey team throughout games. It seems whenever the other team's starting to create momentum or has momentum, they step up in a big way. With those three, they don't need much room. They just seem to find the areas and they're all natural scorers, and especially Jeff is just a natural goal scorer. He doesn't need much room or many chances to capitalize.

For the longest time in the playoffs, it was Anze Kopitar's line with Marian Gaborik dominating. But with four goals and four assists in this series, Carter has taken over that role.

 

Falling Behind Again

In each of the series' three games, the Blackhawks have scored first. It has not mattered, as the Kings have rallied to win twice.

The always-delightful Darryl Sutter shared his thoughts with the press on the Kings' penchant for continually falling behind:

We don't 'continually fall behind.' I mean, if somebody scores a goal, does that mean you 'continually fall behind?' [Reporter: Three straight games.] Oh, OK. So we continually fall behind…[Reporter: They were 8-0 going into the series when scoring first, and you guys have stopped that streak the last two games. Pretty impressive.] Yep. Got to break that streak. We're playing in the middle of May. We've got to break some bad habits. 

So it's not a problem, but sort of is, and the Kings need to break that streak.

 

More from Jonathan Quick

He's won two of three games, but hasn't been all that sharp in the WCF.

Quick has an .889 save percentage against the Blackhawks, but has benefited from 10 goals of support in the past two games. He made the biggest save of the series in Game 2, when he thwarted Brent Seabrook's golden opportunity that would have put the Blackhawks ahead 3-0.

Still, he could be better and will likely have to be as the Blackhawks become more desperate.

 

Prediction

Blackhawks 3, Kings 1

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com.

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