The Chicago Blackhawks live to skate again after a last-minute goal by Patrick Kane forced a game seven between the defending Stanley Cup Champions and the Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks have held on by a thread through the Western Conference Finals, clinging to their championship title as they attempt an improbable comeback to return to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Chicago took the lead in game one with a 3-1 victory over the Kings, but lost early leads in games two and three before completely collapsing in the first period of game four, allowing Los Angeles three early goals and eventually falling 5-2. Less than 9 percent of teams that trail 3-1 in best of seven series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have come back to win.
Yet Chicago is on the road to beat the odds, after escaping elimination in double overtime in game five, and narrowly squeezing through again when Kane netted his winning goal with less than four minutes left in the game. The teams will return to Chicago Sunday night for the must-win game, with the Blackhawks continuing their attempt at a statistically improbable—nearly impossible—comeback.
Chicago has made an appearance in four of the last six Western Conference Finals series, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 and 2013. The Blackhawks took the trophy both years, and Patrick Kane put his stamp on last years’ final, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the series MVP.
The Blackhawks and the Kings met in last season’s conference finals as well, but with a less dramatic ending. Chicago just missed a sweep and put Los Angeles away in five quick games. The 2014 series has not been quite so neat and tidy for the defending champions.
The two teams met three times in the regular season, and Chicago took all three games with 3-1, 1-0, and 5-2 wins. Chicago expected to dominate the teams’ postseason matchups as well, particularly after their dominating victory in game one. The Kings refused to let a repeat of last year happen, however, and came in sticks blazing in the third period of game two, setting the pace for the next two games and taking the wind out of Chicago’s sails.
Neither team is going down without a fight, which will make game seven an exciting battle worthy of a conference finals series. Patrick Kane has been a hero late in the series for the Blackhawks, netting seven total points in the past two games. He scored two goals in Friday night’s game six, and set up Duncan Keith for the tying goal in the third period before scoring the winner just a few minutes later. Kane did not have an answer for his tendency toward late-game success, but Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville suggested that the “challenge” is a motivator for Kane, saying the 25 year old excels under the pressure of the “bigger” stages.
If the Blackhawks pull off the improbable with a win tomorrow, they will join the less than 10 percent of playoff teams that have come back from a 1-3 series deficit to advance. The winner of Sunday’s game will face the New York Rangers, who defeated the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 Thursday night to win the Eastern Conference Finals.
Commentary by Christina Jones