We're all cool with a Game 8 of the Western Conference Final, right?
The phrase "playoff hockey" has become synonymous with many things. The series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings certainly falls under that broad umbrella.
You'd get lost trying to navigate through all of the twists and turns in the conference final.
The Kings looked to have it all wrapped up after grabbing a 3-1 lead. Then the Blackhawks stayed alive with a double-overtime victory in Game 5 and followed that up with a dramatic 4-3 win in Game 6.
The series will reach its denouement on Sunday.
When: Sunday, June 1, at 8 p.m.
Where: United Center in Chicago, Illinois
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Only one team in history came back from a 3-1 deficit in the conference final—the 2000 New Jersey Devils—according to NHL.com. The Devils did go on to beat the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final, so winning Game 7 on Sunday would be a good omen for Chicago.
Although the Kings are 6-0 in elimination games this playoffs, this is their third series in a row to go to seven games. Only three teams in NHL history have played the maximum 21 games after the first three rounds.
At a certain point, you wonder if mental and physical fatigue—especially the former—becomes a major problem. Your body and mind can only take so much before one or both shut down.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick acknowledged that it could be an issue on Sunday, but he thinks the stakes will be enough to motivate the players to push through, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
I guess we can get used to it. We don't want to be used to it. If you play Game 7s throughout the whole playoffs, it is going to be pretty tough on your body. Whatever. We're in this situation. Before the series if we were asked, 'Would you want to go to Game 7 against Chicago?' and be put in that spot, a one-game thing, I think we would take it.
As if that won't be a significant enough road block for the Kings, they'll have to overcome a partisan United Center crowd. Although Los Angeles won Game 2 in Chicago, that was the lone postseason home loss for the Blackhawks.
Are you gonna bet against the reigning Stanley Cup champions at home in a Game 7?
Chicago will be relying heavily on Patrick Kane, who's quickly growing a reputation as one of the most opportunistic stars in the NHL. When his team needs a goal, the 25-year-old winger rises to the occasion:
Patrick Kane might be the most clutch player in hockey.— ESPN (@espn) May 31, 2014
He scored the winner in Game 6 with a great piece of individual work.
That was his fourth game-winning goal of the playoffs, which ties teammate Jonathan Toews for the team lead, per NHL Public Relations:
Patrick Kane's 2nd goal in Game 6 was his 4th GWG this postseason, tying J. Toews for the @NHLBlackhawks/NHL lead. pic.twitter.com/kuFBg6VwFx— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 31, 2014
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville believes that the grander the occasion, the better that Kane plays.
"It wasn't like the first time we've seen it with him," he said after Game 6, per ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers. "I don't think there's a player in the league that has a puck on his stick, time and possession in the course of a game, and he sees plays, makes plays. The bigger the stage, too, he likes that challenge."
Kane's performance ties into the point about mental fatigue to a certain extent because it's as if no lead is safe for the Kings. Kane is waiting in the wings to score a timely goal.
It will be hard for Game 7 to top the drama of the first six games, but with the way this series has unfolded, one or two surprises might be left in the Western Conference Final.