What a terrific series this Western Conference Semifinal between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings has been. For some, it was a bit unexpected. Not that people didn't think the San Jose Sharks were a tough team. The Kings, on the other hand, are so talented and looked -- after their four-straight wins against St. Louis in Round 1 -- to be much like the dominant, infallible bunch they were in 2012. Not so. Though the Kings have been excellent, the Sharks have been with them every step of the way.
It's a shame most of the games have taken place after the bedtime of most people on the East Coast, because this has been the best series of Round 2. Both teams have had games where they've been dominant (Los Angeles in Game 1, San Jose in Game 6) and games they've won in dramatic fashion (Los Angeles in Game 2, San Jose in Game 3). Jonathan Quick has two shutouts, but Antti Niemi has also played extremely well. Big stars (Joe Thornton, Dustin Brown, Logan Couture, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dan Boyle) and depth players (TJ Galiardi, Slava Voynov, Brent Burns, Tyler Toffoli) alike have come up big at times.
So we will have Game 7 on Tuesday night at Staples Center -- the first Game 7 the Kings have hosted since 1989. That year, they fell down, 3-1, to Edmonton and The Great One led the Kings back to take the series. This time around, it's been a back-and-forth battle. Do the Kings hang on at home again, or are the Sharks destined to be first to break serve?
The better goaltender probably wins this. Niemi or Quick?
The numbers are quite good. Quick: seven wins, 1.54 goals against average, .947 save percentage. Niemi: seven wins, 1.85 goals against, .932 save percentage. There's not likely to be more than three goals in this Game 7, so it's going to come down to which goalie is able to batten down the hatches and make the biggest saves.
Which team's depth players will come up big?
In games like these, the top line players tend to cancel each other out, meaning it'll be the third and fourth lines and the depth defensemen who come up as heroes. A guy like TJ Galiardi came up big for San Jose in Game 6, while the Kings have a ton of guys on their third and fourth lines who could probably be in the top six on most other teams. Who gets the biggest goal?
Will the first goal be seventh heaven?
This one's pretty simple. The team that has scored the first goal has won every game of this series. Will either team break that cycle, or will history bear down on whomever concedes first?
Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN