Chicago Blackhawks - Los Angeles Kings
Fittingly this dynamite series is bound for Game 7 at United Center and I for one wish it could go on even longer.
In the aftermath of the opening clash I remarked that even the players were talking about it going the distance and so it has proved. Another furious paced encounter on Friday could have gone either way but it was the Blackhawks who pulled through to make sure they got to play one more time in front of their own fans. Patrick Kane was borderline unplayable and zipped the winner past Jonathan Quick with just over three minutes still to play.
It was yet another virtuoso, gamebreaking performance from the reigning Conn Smythe trophy winner. LA will be chastising themselves not only for missing out on two chances to get over the line which is made even worse by the knowledge they had third period leads in both Games 5 and 6.
Maybe it's just how the Kings roll since they've needed deciding contests to get through the first two rounds. There's no shortage of experience of these key matchups on their roster and I don't doubt that Darryl Sutter will have them as fired up to compete as ever.
Whilst coming into it on the back of losing two in a row is markedly different preparation for them the past indicates that momentum doesn't play as significant a part in who takes Game 7. Either way Justin Williams is usually their man for the hour with a phenomenal scoring record in times such as these, he's available at 3.50 to score tonight and could be worth a punt to be first goalscorer too.
One of the most striking statistics I've seen is that the Blackhawks are yet to lose after Game 4 in any series over the last two years. It takes great mental strength as well as a huge amount of skill to pull off a record like that when every other team should be just as determined to win in the clutch. If any club can put an end to such a streak it's the Kings but I've said similar things for the past two games and they've failed to resist their opponents in the biggest moments.
Tonight is simply about finding a way by any means necessary and again the tie at 3.80 is a solid option considering how close events of the past five days have been. Chicago have the intangible outside influences on their side and I believe them to marginally be the better overall outfit.
Back the Blackhawks to return to the Stanley Cup Finals in a few days’ time.
Best Bet: Chicago Blackhawks to win at 2.10.