NHL Playoffs 2014: X-Factors for Kings and Blackhawks in Game 7

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NHL Playoffs 2014: X-Factors for Kings and Blackhawks in Game 7
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

After six grueling games, the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks will finally determine who gets to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final—Game 7 style. 

The two teams have engaged in an entertaining series through six games. First, the Kings appeared poised to return to the Stanley Cup Final. They took a commanding 3-1 series lead thanks to an offensive explosion that included 15 goals in three games. 

However, the Blackhawks aren't the kind of team to go down without a fight. Patrick Kane and Co. battled back in Games 5 and 6 to even the series at three apiece. 

Now it all comes down to one final Game 7 between the last two Western Conference champions for the right to take on the New York Rangers for Lord Stanley's Cup.

It's in games like this when X-factors come into play. Be it a player who goes from role player to star in the clutch or an extra edge as a team when it matters most, every little advantage will count on Sunday night. 

Here's a look at the X-factors that will impact Game 7.

 

Justin Williams, RW, Los Angeles Kings

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

What better place to start talking about Game 7 X-factors than the man who has earned the nickname "Mr. Game 7." The 32-year-old forward may not qualify as a true star on this Kings team, but he's earned a reputation for coming through when it matters most. 

In his career he is an incredible 6-0 in Game 7's and has scored six goals with six assists, per Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times

Williams' key to Game 7 success? Look at the game for the opportunity that it is, per Pugmire:

You treat Game 7s as an opportunity to do something special. An opportunity to improve yourself. An opportunity to advance and get the better of the team that you've battled with for six games. It's going to be no different. We have, obviously, a huge bone to pick with them and we'll leave it all out there, because there's no more after this.

Considering his proven track record of producing in these situations, the Blackhawks are going to need to pay special attention to Williams on the ice. Otherwise, they may wind up like the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. 

Williams was instrumental in sending both of those teams home in Game 7's already this season. 

 

Jonathan Quick's Epic Final-Period Struggle

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

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Considering all of the scoring that has taken place in this series, defense hasn't exactly been the name of the game. However, Jonathan Quick had a highly disappointing third period in Game 6 that doesn't bode well for his team's chances on Sunday night. 

While the defense surrendered just three shots, the Blackhawks were able to convert on two of those to take the lead and force this Game 7, per ESPN Stats and Info. For those counting at home, that's a save percentage of just 33 percent in the final frame. 

With goalie play meaning so much in a Game 7 situation, the team that has the hottest netminder is going to have a huge advantage. Based upon Game 6, that's the Blackhawks. 

Corey Crawford has had his share of struggles in the series, too. He has surrendered 21 goals in the series and has just an 88.4 save percentage. However, Game 6 was one of his better performances in this series, and he gives Chicago the advantage in the final game. 

 

Blackhawks' Win Streak in Elimination Games

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

This X-factor isn't so much one player as just a telling trend—the Blackhawks have been nearly unbeatable in big games. 

Beginning with the title run in 2013, the Hawks are now a perfect 13-0 in Games 5, 6 and 7, according to ESPN Stats and Info:

As many clutch performers as the Kings have, the Blackhawks' experience as the defending Stanley Cup champions can't be denied. With their backs against the wall, their deep, experienced roster always seems to bring forth a hero to extend or win the series. 

With the United Center in full vocal support of Chicago, Game 7 should be a true case of an unstoppable clutch force meeting an immovable clutch object. 

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