The San Jose Sharks are a very good, if streaky, hockey team. They've won six of their last eight games. They have solid goaltending and offensive stars that can rival many of the remaining teams in this post-season. They've lost twice in regulation at home this entire season in 26 games at HP Pavilion, which is crazy. You figure, if they steal Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series in Los Angeles, they stand a pretty a pretty good chance at moving on to the next round.
Yet, they still only stand even with the Los Angeles Kings in what has been a wild, grueling series. Suspensions, big hits, goalie interference controversies. The series has been the equivalent of a club that Saturday Night Live's Stefon would describe. The Kings didn't necessarily look dominant in their two wins at home, though Game 1 was pretty convincing. The Sharks didn't quite look dominant in their two wins at home, though Game 4 was pretty convincing.
The fact is, the Kings are a miracle comeback away from being down 3-1 in all of this. But it's an even series headed towards Thursday night's Game 5. The swing game is here, and this is a must-win.
Do the Kings keep their perfect record in tact at Staples Center?
While San Jose has their excellent home mark, the Kings are 5-0 and yet to lose at their rink in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hell, the Kings also had a crazy home record during the regular season, going 19-4-1 at Staples Center. The first team to blink at home probably loses this series, so do the Kings have it in them to hold serve again?
Is Joe Thornton going to continue being great?
Nine points in eight games for the centerman often accused of not being a leader or a playoff performer. You could argue, however, that this has been the best post-season of his career. He's come close to, but never reached a point per game in the playoffs, but he's there this year. Jumbo's also been on ice for 16 Sharks goals for, while only one against during the post-season.
Who wins the elite goaltending battle?
Niemi vs. Quick really turned into the goalie duel we were expecting when this series shifted to Northern California. Both goaltenders were great, though Niemi got the better of Quick. Who can get two wins in three games and make all the big saves necessary? Should be the most intriguing "1-on-1" of the rest of this battle.
Game Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
National TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN