San Jose Sharks (+130) at Los Angeles Kings (-150, 5 o/u)
If the San Jose Sharks (1-0, 1-0 road) are truly underdogs in their first round matchup against the powerhouse Los Angeles Kings (0-1, 0-1 home), they aren’t playing the role very well.
The Sharks had an answer for every Kings score in a 4-3 Game 1 victory, and now they can return home with a stranglehold on the best of seven series with another win tonight in Game 2 at the Staples Center (10:30 PM Eastern).
San Jose wasn’t a very popular pick to advance through this round, given its rather tragic playoff history. The Sharks have often been knocked off when they were favored to win, and no example was more humiliating than two years ago, when the Kings rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to win in seven games. Los Angeles was just the fourth team in NHL history to climb back from a hole that size.
But even though most of the names are the same, these are very different teams from 2014. Just look at the Sharks’ Brent Burns: in two short years, he went from a big-bodied second-pair defenseman to a possible Norris candidate, leading his team in minutes and racking up 75 points this season. Burns made his presence felt on Thursday with a goal and an assist.
Up the middle, it was the same old names making plays for San Jose. Joe Pavelski had a pair of goals while ageless wonders Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau helped the Sharks to a 32-27 edge in the faceoff circle.
The Kings played well enough to win Game 1, except for one key member, goalie Jonathan Quick. Despite sporting a career playoff save percentage of .922 and a GAA of 2.24, Quick was miserable on Thursday night, allowing four goals on just 23 shots. And struggling against the Sharks is not a new thing for the netminder: that was the fourth time this year he’s allowed four or more goals to San Jose.
I have no doubt Quick will find his game at some point this series (or Jhonas Enroth will find it for him); but the streaky play of the Kings makes them a hard sell tonight. L.A. has followed up a loss with another loss 11 times this season. Heck, part of the reason their Cup run of 2014 was so magical was the fact they had to overcome two different three-game losing streaks.
But it’s also hard to recommend betting against the Kings at home in what feels like a must-win game. What I do know is that, in six games against each other this year, the total has never gone UNDER: they hit the OVER in four and the other two pushed. That’s where I’ll be putting my money tonight.
Pick: OVER (5).
(Photo credit: buzbeto (Originally uploaded to Flickr. Photo has been cropped.)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].)