Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh
Penguins catch up on some rest before facing off in the Eastern Conference
finals, the picture out West is finally ready to come into focus
The Bruins and Penguins both wrapped their respective Eastern Conference
semifinal series in five games, but a pair of Game 7s will be needed to decide
which teams get to battle for the West title.
Game 7s are always good news for sports fans. We get to see the already high
stakes of the playoffs get boiled down to its essence, as two teams play one
final game to find out who is the better team.
For once, the hype machine isn't needed because a Game 7 is more than capable
of selling itself.
First up is Tuesday's clash between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
The Kings, of course, are the defending Stanley Cup champions and they hope
Game 7 sticks to the same script the rest of the series has followed, or else
their chances of repeating are over.
The home team has won all six meetings in the series, and L.A. carries a 13-
game winning streak as the host going into the final clash. The Kings haven't
lost at Staples Center since March 23 against Vancouver, but Sharks head coach
Todd McLellan thinks the pressure is clearly on the home team.
"We really don't have anything to lose," McLellan said. "We're going to play
Game 7 against the Stanley Cup champs in their building. We look forward to
Pressure is only one part of the equation, however. A bigger question is will
the Sharks be able to solve Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick when it matters
most? San Jose has scored just three goals in three road games against L.A. in
this series and Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has posted two shutouts on
home ice. Quick helped his team win Game 1 by a 2-0 score before anchoring a
3-0 triumph in Game 5.
"It's time for us to get there and try to change the story," McLellan said.
"Obviously, we're going to have to play a much better game than we did the
last time in that building. They earned the right for home ice. It's our job
to take it away from them."
Although the Kings figure to have the odds in their favor due to home ice,
this is a new situation for head coach Darryl Sutter's club. When L.A. won its
first Stanley Cup title a year ago, Sutter led the team to a 16-4 mark in the
postseason and the Kings only went past five games once. That was in the
Stanley Cup Finals, where L.A. needed six games to defeat the New Jersey
When asked whether he thought this series had a chance to go seven, Sutter
answered with his trademark deadpan humor.
"Yep. Why not? I think every series has the chance to go seven. Somewhere
between four and seven."
I guess if you can't play the underdog role, keeping them laughing is another
good way to make sure the locker room stays loose.
On Wednesday, we'll get to see a different kind of Game 7, as the top-seeded
Chicago Blackhawks try to pull off a memorable comeback after trailing Detroit
three games to one.
This Original Six encounter has been a series of streaks. The seventh-seeded
Red Wings won three straight after losing Game 1 in Chicago, but the
Blackhawks have rattled off consecutive victories to even things.
For a team like the Blackhawks, who went 24 straight games without a
regulation loss to open the regular season, taking three in a row from Detroit
to win this series is expected at this point. Still, the Red Wings hardly
looked overmatched in Game 6 on Monday, as Chicago grinded out a 4-3 win in
Detroit to set up what could be another close affair in Game 7.
"We've got that momentum," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We want to
Like McLellan is doing for San Jose, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock is
playing the "just happy to be here" card with his team. It's a tactic designed
to keep the troops loose, and if your team is labeled the underdog, it makes
sense to embrace the designation.
"If I would've told Detroit and Michigan we would play in Chicago in Game 7, I
think everybody would be excited about that," Babcock said.
Of course, Game 7s are a treat for the fans to watch, but the players and
coaches involved in the do-or-die games seem just as excited.
"It's one game. This is what we play for," said Sharks center Logan Couture.
The time for manufactured excitement is over. Tune into the NHL playoffs over
the next two days and catch a glimpse of the real thing.
The Sports Network