The Chicago Blackhawks have a chance on their home ice to take their second Western Conference Championship in four seasons. A lot of people expected them to be facing a more competitive series than the one the Los Angeles Kings have given them. But enough has gone wrong for the Kings on the ice and in terms of injuries that they have put themselves in a 3-1 hole just as much as the Blackhawks have put them there.
Take, for example, Thursday night's Game 4. The Kings jumped out to leads of 1-0 and 2-1. Between Jonathan Quick and the Kings' ability to play defense, that should have been enough to shut it down. The Hawks, however, had other plans. Patrick Kane tallied late in the second. Marian Hossa completed a gorgeous one-timer early in the third. In just two minutes and 29 seconds, the Kings had given away the lead and the game.
Now, to win the West, they must win Saturday night's Game 5 on the road, head back to Los Angeles for a Game 6 on Monday, win that, and then head back to Chicago for a Game 7 on Wednesday. It doesn't seem easy, or even likely. That's a testament to how well the Chicago Blackhawks have played. The Kings may well pay for their sins on Saturday night.
Does Duncan Keith's return put Chicago over the top?
Keith was suspended for Game 4. Sheldon Brookbank took his place. In just 6:50 of ice time, he managed to go minus-2. Safe to say, the Blackhawks are very happy to put Keith back up on the top pairing and play their six best defensemen again. Then again, Brookbank's play didn't even cause the Blackhawks to lose a game. So, they seem to be living well right now regardless.
Now that Patrick Kane has scored, can Jonathan Toews get back into things?
Okay, so Patrick Kane's goal in Thursday's Game 4 was one of the most obvious displays of a player desperate to get back into the goal column. That's okay, though. He got his first goal since early in the Detroit series to tie a huge game. He did what he felt he needed to do. Now, it has to be Jonathan Toews' turn. The Chicago captain is stuck on one goal in the entire postseason. Despite having six assists, that's just not gonna cut it. The Hawks would feel a lot more comfortable if they had Toews firing on all cylinders headed into a Stanley Cup Final.
Will Corey Crawford outplay Jonathan Quick one more time?
This has been one of the most surprising factors of this series. Everyone expected the Kings to have the advantage in net, as Quick was coming into this third round having played his typically exemplary hockey. He has looked beatable in this series, however, giving up an un-Quick-like 10 goals in four games. Which is almost a joke, the idea that that's below average for anybody. For Quick in the playoffs, however, it is. It's also below average when your team has only beaten a goalie more than twice just three times in the postseason. Corey Crawford has been better.
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, CBC