LOS ANGELES — After the Los Angeles Kings soundly defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2, in Game 4 of the 2014 Western Conference Final at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 26, many media, pundits and fans alike declared the Blackhawks dead, and the series over.
The Blackhawks are trailing in the series, 3-1, facing elimination in tonight’s Game 5 in Chicago. But as the saying goes, there’s a reason they play the games, and as the Kings themselves have proven during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, coming back to win a series after being pushed to the brink of elimination is not impossible.
The Blackhawks will go into tonight’s game understanding their predicament, but with the attitude that they have nothing to lose.
“We’re looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and trying to get some momentum back and start feeling good about ourselves again,” Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook told the media in Chicago on May 27.
“We need to take it one game at a time,” Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell said during media availability in Chicago on May 27. “We have nothing to lose. It basically comes down to our special teams right now. If we get them going, we could have been in both those games.”
“We have nothing to lose,” Bickell added. “Hopefully, we get the momentum tomorrow. Hopefully we can get it done.”
The Blackhawks can take solace in the fact that they’ve been here before, having come all the way back after facing elimination against the Detroit Red Wings during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“We came back from it last year,” said Seabrook. “It was great for our team once we started rolling. We’re going to be a desperate hockey team tomorrow night. We have to come out and lay everything on the line or else our season’s over. We understand that.”
“I think going back to Detroit last year, we know it can be done,” added Seabrook. “Looking at L.A. this year, they did it against San Jose. There are situations where things can be done and we’ve just got to come out and give it our all, come out and play our game. Go out there, lay it on the line, let the chips fall where they may.”
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville shared similar sentiments when he spoke to the media in Chicago on May 27.
“You’re down 3-1, at home, you’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re playing a game, let’s play all out, have fun in our own building, [and] recapture the momentum.”
The Kings are expecting to see the best from the Blackhawks in tonight’s game.
“We know it will be tough,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said to the media in Chicago on May 27. “We know what the crowd is like. We know how they play in this building. It’s a big challenge, [but] I think we’re in a good place in terms of understanding that we’re playing a really good hockey team, knowing full well we’ll get the full charge tomorrow night. We’ll have to be ready for it.”
“We’re expecting their best,” Kings forward Trevor Lewis told the media in Chicago on May 27. “They’re back at home now. We’re expecting them to come out hard. I mean, they’re defending Cup champions. I don’t think they’re going to give up by any means.”
The Kings won Game 4 on the strength of their special teams, but their five-on-five play will need to improve.
“We’ll have to play a hell of a lot better than we did tonight,” Sutter noted following Game 4. “Our five-on-five play—we can certainly be better at that. I know we’re better at that than we were tonight.”
His players agreed.
“I thought they pretty much took it to us, five-on-five,” said Kings right wing Justin Williams. “That’s something we need to look at.”
“They took it to us in the second half of the game, so there’s certainly stuff that we can look at,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar. “We’ll have to improve for the next game, because they’re going to be a desperate team. Their backs are against the wall. We expect their full effort, their full desperation or urgency in Game 5.”
“We’re going to have to look at some stuff and get better,” said Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin. “They’re going to come out with a huge push. Their backs are against the wall. They’re in their home building. We have to play a tough road game. It’s going to be a battle.”
Winning teams like the Blackhawks tend to rise to the occasion.
“Character comes out a lot more when your backs are against the wall,” Williams noted. “It’s win or go home. That’s why the games get harder with every game you win.”
“Going into Game 5, we’re going to try our best to finish it off, because we know were going to [face] as desperate a team as there is.” Williams added.
The Kings are also facing their toughest challenge of the series.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Muzzin. “They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champs for a reason. They’ve got a good team, [and] they play well in their barn.”
“The toughest game to win in every series is the fourth game,” Sutter emphasized. “Doesn’t matter if it’s the fourth game or the fifth game or the sixth game or the seventh game, it’s the toughest one to win. That’s all that you can look at.”
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