Now that the Eastern Conference finals are over and Boston has their spot in the Stanley Cup finals booked, it’s up to the Western Conference to figure things out. Chicago can make that very easy by winning tonight.
Game 5: Chicago Blackhawks host Los Angeles Kings (8 p.m. ET, NBC/Live Extra)
Chicago leads series 3-1
It feels almost as if the writing is on the wall for tonight’s Game 5 in Chicago. The defending champion Kings are down 3-1 in the series and face a do-or-die situation on the road where they’ve won just once in this postseason (Game 5 against St. Louis in Round 1). These Blackhawks are just a tad better than the Blues and they’re 8-1 at United Center in the playoffs. That sense of dread coming from L.A. is almost palpable.
If the Kings are going to win a second road game in these playoffs and extend the series to a Game 6, they’ll have to find a way to get their offense going away from Staples Center. In eight road games they’ve got just 11 goals and have been beaten 2-1 in six of their seven road losses. While you can point to their defense and even Jonathan Quick letting them down in Thursday’s Game 4, there’s no doubt the lack of goals has been a major factor in their lack of road success.
Chicago, on the other hand, looks like they’ve got things under control. Getting in a situation where you can end the series on home ice before it’s a Game 7 situation has to feel pretty good. Even better for the Blackhawks is that they get defenseman Duncan Keith back from suspension tonight. Some of the gaffes they had in Game 4 without him aren’t likely to reoccur. Sorry Sheldon Brookbank, but your one-game audition wasn’t so hot.
If the Kings are going to win Game 5 they’ve got to get someone other than Slava Voynov to score goals. Voynov, Jeff Carter, and Justin Williams all lead the team with six goals in the postseason and Carter’s last goal came in Game 2 of this series. With Mike Richards’ status still in doubt, Carter’s been piling up assists. Perhaps tonight L.A. can finally see some production from captain Dustin Brown and center Anze Kopitar as they’re both pointless in this series.