Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Preview and Prediction for Game 7

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Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Preview and Prediction for Game 7
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

The L.A. Kings have lost three consecutive games in each of the last two rounds. They lost the first three against San Jose before winning four straight, then lost three consecutively after winning the first two against Anaheim (they closed out the series with two wins).

Now, the Kings are in danger of posting a third consecutive three-game losing streak, but if they do, that will be it for them. After earning an opportunity to close out Chicago in Games 5 and 6, Los Angeles fell short and now faces the daunting task of beating the Blackhawks in the Windy City.

It should be said that just because the Kings have lost three in a row previously doesn’t mean they will do it again. It further needs to be stated that the team has made a mockery of the concept of "momentum" during its current playoff run.

Even so, the Kings enter this seventh game in great danger of letting a series they once had a solid grip on slip away, with this final contest virtually a coin flip between two incredible teams.

 

Kings’ Top Storylines

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Elimination Magic

Los Angeles is 6-0 in the postseason when facing elimination. That doesn’t mean the Kings will come through a seventh time, but it does mean that the club is familiar with having its collective back against the wall. So far, it has managed to come up with the win every time.

Nobody exemplifies the idea that this is old hat better than coach Darryl Sutter:

 

Jonathan Quick, Again

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Quick’s reputation as a difference-maker when it really matters is taking a beating in these playoffs, where he has posted an ugly .906 save percentage.

He’s been particularly bad against Chicago, allowing three or more goals in four of six games and never surrendering fewer than two in any of the half-dozen contests. His save percentage in the series is a miserable .886.

If the Kings lose this series, Quick will be the primary reason.

 

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Could This Be Mike Richards’ Final Game With the Kings?

Mike Richards’ play has fallen off dramatically over the last few seasons, and a few commentators have suggested he could be a compliance buyout by the Kings. Eric Duhatschek summed up the argument in The Globe and Mail:

Here’s a question that Kings’ general manager Dean Lombardi will need to answer this off-season? Does he offer Mike Richards a compliance buyout because the speed of the game has passed him by? Or does the fact that Richards seems to do so much better in the playoffs than the regular season make him safe? Lombardi tends to be like a lot of GMs – intensely loyal to the core group that helped him win. But unlike Jeff Carter, who has gotten better and better in his time in L.A., Richards has really struggled.

Richards, incidentally, has just two goals and a minus-five rating over 20 playoff games, something which might impact Lombardi’s decision-making. Of course, Richards could go a long way to ensuring he spends at least one more series with L.A. if he has a strong Game 7.

 

Blackhawks’ Top Storylines

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Patrick Kane Is on Fire

Kane had seven points over Games 5 and 6 as the Blackhawks fought their way back from the brink of elimination. It’s been more than two decades since a player has done as much at that critical juncture:

The newly formed trio of Kane, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw has breathed new life into the team. Unless L.A. can figure out a way to stop them, they could push the ‘Hawks into the Stanley Cup Final.

 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Corey Crawford, Again

Crawford’s numbers are a little better than Quick’s over the course of the postseason—a .916 save percentage, thanks to great work early—but he’s been vying with the Kings goalie for the title of worst in this series, having allowed four or more goals in four of six games.

With a .884 save percentage in the third round, Crawford’s performance ranks just back of his counterpart in the Los Angeles net.

 

Shooting Blanks

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No Blackhawks forward has more shots than Marian Hossa. Only Hossa has more shots than Patrick Sharp. Yet the duo, both renowned as brilliant offensive players, have combined for only five goals on 126 shots (4.0 shooting percentage).

Normally with that many shots, the expectation would be that the two would have 15 or so goals. Sharp is an 11.9 percent career shooter, and Hossa converts 12.8 percent of his shots over his career.

 

Prediction

Blackhawks 3, Kings 2 (2OT)

 

Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.

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