Hawks Backs Against the Wall
The Blackhawks will host the Kings on Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois with the opening face-off slated for 8:05 PM ET. This will be Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals series in which the Kings hold a commanding 3-1 lead. According to NHL betting odds Chicago is a -140 money line home favorite and the posted total is 5.0. Chicago has won 6 of their last 7-games at the United Center versus Los Angeles. The only loss in that sequence came in Game 2 of this series.
"Been There Done That" but...
Although the Blackhawks are down 3-1 in this series, and are facing an opponent that's clicking on all cylinders right now, don't expect them to be deterred. After all, last season they faced an identical 3-1 deficit to the Detroit Red Wings in their 2nd round series, and then reeled off 3 wins in a row to advance. However, this time around history will be overwhelmingly against them. The only team to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in a Conference Final, or a NHL Semifinals series was the New Jersey Devils in 1999. There's been 66 exact 3-1 scenarios previous to this one at this stage of the playoffs, so the Blackhawks would have to be just the 2nd team to accomplish the feat in the last 67 opportunities.
Kings of the Western Castle?
The Los Angeles Kings are just a win away from their 2nd Stanley Cup Finals appearance in the last 3 years. It seemed like an insurmountable task to achieve just a few weeks ago when they trailed their 1st round series against San Jose 3-0. Since then they've won 11 of their last 15-games, and are certainly looking like a team of destiny at this juncture. They allowed Chicago to score 5 of the first 6-goals in this series, and then proceeded to outscore the Blackhawks 15-4 from that point, thus putting them on the brink of elimination for the first time in their last 5 playoff rounds. The Kings team entered the playoffs as the lowest scoring team amongst the 16 qualifying clubs. They've surprised everyone by being the highest scoring team in the postseason.
The Intangible Factors
Despite being down 3-1 in the series you can make the case that Chicago has been the better of these two teams at even strength. However, special teams have been another story. The Kings have thoroughly dominated the Hawks on both the power play and short handed situations. The goaltending was thought to be a toss up entering this series, but Jonathan Quick has been clearly better than Cory Crawford in the first 4-games. Finally, the Kings key players like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Drew Doughty have risen to the occasion. Contrarily the Hawks stars Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews have been far from their best. A lot has to change for Chicago to win tonight, let alone reeling off 3 victories in a row. The Kings on the other hand just have to keep with what they've been doing over the previous 3-games.
The Kings confidence and momentum is enormous right now. They're receiving balanced scoring, playing stifling defense, and look to be the fresher of the 2 teams right now. It would be foolish to count out the defending champions who have overcome deficits to win in 3 of their previous 5 playoff rounds. Their luck runs out this evening, the Kings are just plainly better right now, and we are willing to add them to our NHL picks as the dogs tonight.