Kings Look to Take Command in Game 4
Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the Western Conference finals on their way to a second Stanley Cup in four years.
The Kings were the defending champions at the time, and now they're hoping to turn the tables on Chicago.
Today, they've got a shot to take a three-games-to-one lead in Los Angeles. The Kings lost the series opener but have stormed back with 6-2 and 4-3 decisions. The latter, of course, was in Staples Center, where the home team confirmed that home ice can be a very good thing:
This match-up of the last two Cup winners now has both teams relatively healthy. That's vital for Chicago as the Blackhawks try to win back the home advantage they lost in Game 2.
As we saw, Corey Crawford gave up four goals for the Hawks in Game 3, and that was after allowing five in the two tilts before that. He'll have to be better for the Blackhawks to keep defending their Cup.
Jonathan Quick, who started slowly for Los Angeles in the playoffs, is rounding into shape and seems to be getting better as May turns into June.
Other than Crawford, Patrick Kane needs to step up for the Blackhawks. Right now, he's becoming a Crosby of the West by not maintaining his regular-season scoring pace. Kane doesn't have a point in the past three games. Like the Kid, this has happened to Kane before in the playoffs, but he's rebounded to post multiple-goal performances in the past, and Chicago is waiting for that to happen again; hopefully for them, it will be tonight.
If so, Peggy will keep asking for his advice.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jeff Carter has been lighting it up for the Kings. He's been teamed on a line with rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, a move that's helped him flourish in the playoffs. Carter has seven points in the past two games -- both Kings' wins -- including a hat trick in Game 2.
Chicago has been to four conference finals in the past six years. Los Angeles has been in the past three. Both teams have overcome adversity, such as when the Kings found themselves down 3-0 in the first round to San José. Now, it's Chicago's turn.
Coach Joel Quenneville has had the magic touch all spring. He'll need to conjure up a few changes again tonight if the Blackhawks expect to return home with the series tied at two games apiece. Look for him to tinker by the midway mark of the first period. Any later could be too late. For now, at least.