It all comes down to one decisive Game 7 in the NHL Western Conference Final, with the winner taking the second of two spots in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
That's the predicament the Los Angeles Kings are now in with the Chicago Blackhawks. After the Kings took a stranglehold with a 3-1 series lead, the Blackhawks have answered right back, winning in double-overtime of Game 5 and then squeaking out a 4-3 Game 6 victory to force the elimination game.
L.A. failed to close out the series at home in Game 6, so the Kings will have to win a Game 7 in Chicago to keep their season alive and knock out the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The winner will then host the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Let's break down things you probably don't know, but should, about Game 7.
When: Sunday, June 1, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Game 7 Preview
As told by the below Chicago Sun-Times front page tweeted by the paper's own Mark Lazerus, Sunday night's Game 7 will define much more than just one season:
Believe it or not, Sunday night could be the next step to forming a Chicago Blackhawks dynasty. They won the Stanley Cup in 2009-10 and again last year with much of the same group.
A Stanley Cup title this season would make it three in five years—that's about as close to a dynasty as you can get in the modern-day NHL. With Patrick Kane's two goals and assist in a Game 6 road win, it's also seeming as if the Blackhawks have all the momentum on their side entering a home Game 7.
But despite having a momentum advantage, the Blackhawks couldn't have a much tougher draw for Game 7 as they face the masters of staving off elimination.
Along with being the most recent Stanley Cup champion not from Chicago, the Kings have already made history in their postseason run by becoming the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after being down 3-0. They pulled out a Game 7 in that series against San Jose, then again versus Anaheim.
Now it's time for Round 3 for the Kings, and there's no doubt they will call on winger Justin Williams yet again to lead them to victory.
The man now dubbed as "Mr. Game 7" after his clutch play—including a goal and assist in the Game 7 win over the Ducks—has only improved his game in the Blackhawks series with points in four of the six contests.
Williams commented on what makes a Game 7 so much different, per the Los Angeles Times' Lance 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.
The scenario doesn't set up very well for L.A. in that the Kings are coming off two sour defeats in close-out games and are surely worn out both physically and emotionally after coming close to putting the nail in Chicago's coffin. That's only amplified by having to go on the road against the defending Cup champs.
But a quick look at recent results should allow Kings fans some reprieve. It's just, oh, their third Game 7 on the road this postseason alone.
Let me repeat that—this is the Kings' third Game 7 on the road in this postseason alone.
Despite the Kings' incredible playoff run certainly serving to provide some added confidence, the Blackhawks have the DNA of a champion as well. Don't expect L.A., even if its offense is firing early, to pour it on and bury Chicago quickly like the Kings did against the Sharks and Ducks.
History awaits Chicago, as it could become arguably the league's biggest force in the past decade-plus with a third Stanley Cup in five years.
History also could await L.A., as the Kings could complete one of the most improbable Stanley Cup runs by slipping past Chicago and beating New York in the Cup series. It would also be their second in three years and might end up being the framework for their own dynasty.
At the very least, the way we remember this span of NHL history—and who best dominated it—is set to be impacted greatly with the playing of one game.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!