The Los Angeles Kings host the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday night.
The operative word being “host.”
The Kings have won 13 consecutive home games at Staples Center, which will witness its first Game 7 in the NHL. The Sharks took all three games at the Shark Tank, and haven’t been blown out in the three losses in Los Angeles – but all three were still losses.
Which team wins Game 7? The answer will be found through these Seven Questions About Game 7:
1. Can The Sharks Beat Jonathan Quick in LA?
Quick has allowed seven goals in six home games for the Kings. His 1.17 GAA on home ice is stellar. Going back to last postseason, Quick hasn’t allowed more than two goals against in 12 of 15 home games. He can be downright unbeatable at home; the Sharks will have to find a way to do so in Game 7.
2. Can The Kings Buck The Trends?
There have been 16 NHL playoffs series that have followed the pattern of this one with the home team winning every game leading up to the seventh. In that seventh game in those series, the road team is 8-8.
Keep this in mind as well: In a postseason dominated by the home teams, two of the three Game 7s we’ve seen have been won by the road team – and that third Game 7 would have made it a clean sweep if the Leafs didn’t blow it.
3. Who Wins The Opening 20 Minutes?
The Kings have outscored their opponents 5-2 in the first period, and have shut out their foes in the first 20 minutes during five of their six home wins. The Sharks, meanwhile, scored a first-period goal in each of their three wins in this series. The first goal might not determine the winner here, but the first 20 minutes might.
4. Can The Kings Stay Out Of The Sin Bin?
The Kings have been the more penalized team in five of the six games, and in all three road losses to the Sharks. They’ve had 11 penalties called in the first period alone. The good news is that the Sharks haven’t scored a power-play goal at Staples Center (0-for-10). But can the Kings keep them off the board in Game 7? Eh, better to just stay out of the box.
5. Can Joe Thornton Continue His Dominant Play?
He only has a goal and three assists in the first six games of the series, but the Kings are cognizant that Joe Thornton has been a difference-maker offensively for the Sharks in this series. Said Dustin Brown: “He’s been a pretty dominant force throughout the series. He’s really good on the offensive side of the puck. I think that’s probably been the biggest part of the series for them, is No. 19."
6. Do The Refs Hold a Grudge?
Remember back in Game 3 when Jonathan Quick was assessed a game misconduct for abuse of officials after the Sharks were given a 5-on-3 power play entering overtime? One of those officials was Wes McCauley. The officials for Game 7: Brad Watson … and Wes McCauley. (PHT also notes that Watson was the official who helped whistle a bunch of penalties in Game 7 between the Leafs and Bruins.)
7. Does Game 7 Experience Matter?
The Sharks have 30 “Game 7s” on their roster as compared to 16 for the Kings. Does it matter that Scott Gomez will be playing in his 10th Game 7? Does it matter that Anze Kopitar hasn’t played in one? The Sharks know this: Jeremy Roenick had Game 7 experience and went from being a spare part to a 4-point game against Calgary in a Game 7 in 2008. So maybe experience can sometimes play a part in Game 7 success. Just don't hold your breath for that 4-point Scott Gomez night ...