NHL Picks: Bruins vs. Red Wings Series Price

The Boston Bruins copped the President’s Trophy for most points in the regular season but that and a bag of hockey pucks won’t even get you a cup of coffee in the postseason. So which round one team has the most value in our NHL picks?

Last 10 Games
The Bruins were 5-5 down the stretch which had more to do with head coach Claude Julien resting key players as opposed to the B’s playing mediocre hockey. However, playing .500 hockey late in the season regardless of the reason can breed bad habits. Boston dropped a 3-2 decision to Detroit during the homestretch and ended their season by the identical score in a loss to New Jersey.

The Red Wings went 6-4 in their final 10 games and crept into the playoffs, edging the Capitals for the eighth and final seed. Detroit ended their season with an exclamation point defeating Western Conference power St. Louis, courtesy of seldom used third string goalie Petr Mrazek who stopped all 23 shots en route to a 3-0 victory.

Season Series
Detroit won the season series 3-1, dropping their first game in Boston 4-1 way back on October 5thbut then swept the next three games by scores of 3-2, 6-1 and on April 2nd the Wings stole a 3-2 win despite getting outshot 35-20.  Starting netminder Jimmy Howard was between the pipes for that critical victory while Tuukka Rask took the loss for Boston. Detroit was the only team in the NHL to defeat Boston three times this season.

Forwards
The Bruins skate four solid lines. Even the fourth line consisting of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille consistently causes problems for the league’s scoring elite. They are a fierce checking unit that can, on occasion, light the lamp themselves. But the straw that stirs the drink is clearly Patrice Bergeron who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves around the league because he sacrifices goal scoring for solid two-way hockey. It’s a system that head coach Claude Julien demands of every player and most likely the reason that the uber talented Tyler Seguin was ticketed out of town. Nevertheless, Bergeron still netted 30 goals and along with David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand the Bruins boast a prolific offense which ranked 3rd in the league averaging 3.1 goals per game and now have a power play to go along with it which ranked third as well, connecting on 21.7% of their man-advantaged opportunities.

The Red Wings will be missing a crucial part of their offense and locker room leadership as veteran left winger Henrik Zetterberg is still sidelined after back surgery several weeks ago. The best Detroit fans can hope for is that he recuperates enough to perhaps partake in the latter games of the series. However, Detroit will be counting on the surprising Swedish sensation Gustav Nyquist to continue his stellar season with contributions from 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson.

Edge: Boston

Defensemen
Zdeno Chara has barely missed a beat in his 15th season in the NHL and has been incorporated as a forward on the power play which puts his 6’9” frame in the middle of all the action. He heads a defensive corps that is among the best the NHL has to offer and if his defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg could return from the dead, this will be a complete mismatch not only for the Red Wings but any opponent the Bruins may face going forward.

Edge: Boston

Goaltender:
The edge in NHL odds definitely favors the Bruins Tuukka Rask whose 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage will put him squarely in the middle of Vezina Trophy consideration. Jimmy Howard can be a brick wall when on but has struggled at times this season. If the Wings fall behind in the series early and Howard is not at his best, don’t be surprised if third string goalie Petr Mrazek gets the nod to spark a fire over backup Jonas Gustavsson. Mrazek has sparkled in his nine appearances including two shutouts. 

Edge: Boston

[gameodds]7/263959/?r3=43-19-349/dec&r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Summary
Though it appears the Bruins have an edge in every category including special teams, it’s not quite that easy. Detroit took three of four from the Bruins but please note in your NHL picks that Henrik Zetterberg scored in three of those four games and will not be playing. Indeed the Bruins will be fairly heavy favorites in NHL odds at Bet365.com or WilliamHill.com they should be worthy of a wager to get through the opening round.

NHL Picks: Bruins win series 4-2.

There were four head coaching vacancies in the NHL as the offseason began and now all four have been filled. Two teams opted to hire veterans (Calgary and Montreal) while the other teams opted for new faces (Edmonton and Washington).

It’s an age-old conundrum: try a retread and hope that he’s a match or overlook inexperience and see if you’re hiring the next smart bench boss. Only time will tell.

For now, here is a look at the four teams with their new head coaches and what to expect from them next season.

Michel TherrienCalgary Flames: Bob Hartley

Bob Hartley is the new head coach of the Calgary Flames and his No. 1 goal with the team is to make them more entertaining. If anyone recalls the Colorado Avalanche squads that Hartley coached, they were free flowing, free skating and skill-oriented. That’s what he’d like to do in Calgary.

Unfortunately, Hartley also had that plan in Atlanta and it never worked for the Thrashers. They were doomed by the same probably that hampers the Flames: they don’t have enough skill.

In free agency, the Flames signed Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler, which should help, but the Flames forwards unit still seem to lack. Mike Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla are past their primes. Hartley has some good ideas but the Flames can’t win with the roster they have and need to rebuild. Patchwork won’t help.

Unless Hartley can guide the Flames through rebuilding mode, don’t expect this team to change much. At best, they are a first-round playoff team.

Washington Capitals: Adam Oates

The Capitals coaching position had been a mess as Bruce Boudreau was canned last season and interim coach Dale Hunter, who got the team playing better, didn’t return.

We don’t know a whole lot about Oates other than he was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils last season. He had held that position for three years and worked in Tampa Bay before that.

There will be plenty of questions about the hiring. He’s never been a head coach and is handed the keys to a veteran team who – on paper – should be competing for the Eastern Conference title.

He was one heck of a hockey player and will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year, but he’s still a question mark as a head coach. We’ll see if he’s the one that can finally milk the Capitals talent for all it’s worth.

Edmonton Oilers: Ralph Krueger

The Oilers job was one of the sexiest out there as they have a roster full of young talent that could be ready to compete for a playoff spot next and maybe a Stanley Cup within year. They’re like the Tampa Bay Rays of the 2000’s: they’ve had so many high draft picks that it’s only a matter of time before they get good.

Tom Renney brought over the long-time Swiss national team coach to be his right-hand man originally and now he takes over the team. He definitely looks the part of someone who can inspire as he regularly runs in the mountains and works as a motivational speaker when he’s not coaching.

The Swiss national team tended to overachieve on the international stage (given their talent) so that’s a good sign. He wants an attacking team and he’s definitely got the parts for it. We’ll just have to see what he’s capable of.

Montreal Canadiens: Michel Therrien

The Montreal Canadiens love their French-speaking head coaches, which means they’re picking from a smaller pool than the other 29 teams. Hence, it’s no surprise that the Habs opted for a blast from the past with Therrien, who coached the team 2000-03.

The Habs have been one of the softest teams in the league over the last couple of seasons and that came to a head last year. With as much talent as they had, they lacked character and toughness, and sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

If there is one signature of a Therrien-coached team, it’s toughness and the Habs are going to have it. We can already see a shift in team ideology as the Habs signed Colby Armstrong, Brandon Prust and Francois Boullion in free agency. All of those players are going to beef up the roster.

The Habs are still quite talented and if Therrien can add a backbone, they should be back in the playoffs in 2012-13.

The Los Angeles Kings just completed one of the most thrilling and impressive runs to a Stanley Cup title in the history of the National Hockey League, but they are not about to rest on their laurels heading into the 2012/2013 season.

Bovada has already opened the Kings as one of two 11/1 second-favorites along with Vancouverto win next year’s Stanley Cup as well. The following is the first post in SBR Forum’s offseason blog following the news and notes surrounding the team. 

Dustin Brown2012 NHL Draft 

The NHL recently conducted its annual draft and, while the Kings were pushed all the way to the back of the bus with the 30th and final pick of the first round by virtue of their recent championship, they made the most of the situation by selecting left winger Tanner Pearson, who most recently played for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League. He ranked third in the league in points with 37 goals and 54 assists in 60 games this season. 

Los Angeles did not pick again until the 121st pick in the fourth round, but picked-up another quality left-winger in Nikolai Prokhorkin, who played in the Russian Junior and Russian League for CSKA 2 this past season. The Kings added Canadian defenseman Colin Miller in the fifth round and Czech right winger Tomas Hyka and USA defenseman Paul Ladue in the sixth round. They closed out the draft with the final pick in the seventh round by taking another defenseman from the USA, Nick Ebert. 

Kings re-sign a pair of centers 

Veteran center Jarret Stoll has agreed to a new three-year contract. The eight-year vet was set to become an unrestricted free-agent on July 1, but this new deal ensures that he will be with the Kings through the 2014/2015 season. Stoll posted 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) in the regular season and has led the team in faceoff winning percentage in each of his four seasons in LA. 

The Kings also announced that it had come to terms with center Colin Frazer on a two-year deal. In his first season with the team since coming over from Edmonton, Frazer scored two goals and added six assists in 67 regular season games. 

Penner looks to remain a King 

Looking at the rest of the Kings’ roster, the only major unrestricted free agent that could leave the fold is Dustin Penner. A few months ago that may have not been too big of a deal, but after a stellar performance in the playoffs with a 11 points and a game-winning goal in Game 5 against Phoenix to seal the series, his value on the open market as risen dramatically. Fortunately, Penner has reportedly indicated that he wishes to stay in Los Angeles and might be willing to go has far as to even take a pay cut to remain with the team.

While we were hoping to see a lot more big trades at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (see: Roberto Luongo, Rick Nash), we instead saw a fairly quite weekend of action. Turns out all of the focus was kept on…well…drafting players.

In recent years, NHL rookies have continued to have a bigger impact on the game much sooner than expected. For example, last season Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Ladeskog, Adam Larsson and Sean Couturier all had major impacts on their team’s success. 

Now that the picks are in for the 2012 draft, let’s have a look at who is most likely to have a major impact on the 2012-13 season: 

Nail Yakupov1. Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers 

The first pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft figures to have as much of an impact on the stat sheet as any rookie in the entire class. The Edmonton Oilers are young, fast and inexperienced, which means there will be plenty of playing time for Yakupov. 

The Oilers are going to throw him right into the fire just as they did Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and you can expect him to collect plenty of points just like the previous first overall pick did. Yakupov has drawn comparisons to players like Pavel Bure and inserting him into a freewheeling, freeskating team that has skilled forwards should produce fantastic results. 

2. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks 

Another defenseman that should have an immediate impact is Swedish prospect Hampus Lindholm. The Ducks traded away Lubomir Visnovsky on draft day, which creates an immediate hole in the roster for the sixth pick in the 2012 draft to fill. 

Lindholm wowed scouts with his VO2 Max testing by setting a new record, so it’s fairly clear that his body is very close to being NHL-ready – if not there already. 

The Ducks used a high draft pick on Cam Fowler early in the 2010 draft and threw him into the fire; look for them to do the same with Lindholm.

3. Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres 

Mikhail Grigorenko was rated as a top-three prospect on many NHL draft boards, so the Buffalo Sabres are definitely pleased that they landed him with the 12th pick overall. 

Buffalo is already close to being an Eastern Conference contender and Grigorenko should be able to help their case. In some other situations, he might need some seasoning first but because the Sabres are a complete team, they can put him in the lineup right away because they won’t expect the world from him. 

He’s got size, which the Sabres are short on, and he’s a gifted scorer as evidenced by his 85 points in 59 games in the QMJHL last season. Look for Buffalo to give him a long look in the early part of the 2012-13 season and, if he plays as expected, he could pay dividends. 

4. Ryan Murray, Columbus Blue Jackets 

The second pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft should have a big impact on the upcoming season. The Blue Jackets have already shown that they plan to build from back-to-front, signing defenseman James Wisniewski in free agency last season, then adding goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky via trade this offseason. Now they used the second pick of the draft on Murray, who should be one of the team’s anchors in the back for the next 10 years. 

He’s the perfect fit for the Blue Jackets, who are desperately searching for an identity. He is big, reliable and even experienced after playing with men for Canada in the 2012 World Championships. 

More importantly, he’s been a team captain at almost every level he’s played. The Blue Jackets could use a man like him to be a cornerstone piece of the future.

5. Mathew Dumba, Minnesota Wild 

Given how the Minnesota Wild finished the 2011-12 season, they are desperate for help just about everywhere on the ice. The selection of defenseman Mathew Dumba should help right away. 

The Wild lack leadership and it’s not hard to envision this guy being a future captain. He captained Team Canada’s Under 18 team, so look for his voice to grow louder and louder in the locker room as he gets more comfortable. 

For now, though, the rookie will be relied upon for his excellent shot from the point and big hits. The Wild need some kind of spark and Dumba should be afforded every opportunity to be just that.

While the players shot down the recent proposal, can the NHL get it’s conference realignment in a new CBA? If so, who would it benefit, and who would it hurt the most? Let’s take a look at why the NHL wanted it in the first place.

If you took a look at a map of North America, put a pin on each location where there’s an NHL franchise and then guessed whether each team is in the Eastern or Western Conference, there might be a few surprises. For example: the Detroit Red Wings, who are just a few hours’ drive away from Toronto, are in the Western Conference. That means they have to travel all the way across the country to face teams like San Jose, Colorado, Dallas and Vancouver more often than they would surely like. Also, there are some weird issues with divisions where the Dallas Stars play in a division with four other teams that are in the West Coast time zone, which means tons of travel and time shifting for them.

We always hear of the wear travel has on teams, but it must be noted that this year’s champions, the Lost Angeles Kings, were quite comfortable on the road. Is the travel the issue here, or does the NHL have other things in mind?

So while the NHL came up with a new alignment, which included four conferences – two with seven-team conferences and two with eight-team conferences – with the top four teams in each making the playoffs. Here’s how it could have looked:

Proposed NHL Realignment

Sidney CrosbyConference A
Anaheim
Calgary
Colorado
Edmonton
Los Angeles
Phoenix
San Jose
Vancouver

Conference B
Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Detroit
Minnesota
Nashville
St. Louis
Winnipeg

Conference C
Boston
Buffalo
Florida
Montreal
Ottawa
Tampa Bay
Toronto

Conference D
Carolina
New Jersey
NY Islanders
NY Rangers
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Washington

The only problem is that the players didn’t agree and we’re still stuck with the old format.

The players, who are led by Donald Fehr, didn’t give their seal of approval because they have concerns about the player travel and the new playoff system. In regards to travel, the players are concerned about more back-to-back situations that the league had planned, lengthier road trips and number of border crossings. In regards to the playoff system, there is some clamoring among players – and fans too – that by shifting the teams around, some historical rivalries could be hampered. 

The main issue here is that the league tried to get this done without the consent of the players, and while they’ve definitely had the power throughout the during of this entire Collective Bargaining Agreement, it’s coming to an end this offseason and the players want to make sure that they’re heard. At the end of the day, this is probably not a very big issue for the players, but Fehr wants to show that they are not going to roll over for any issue – big or small. 

In the last CBA, the league got everything they wanted and that was mostly because the league was in bad shape financially. Since then, the league has grown in popularity and revenue, and now the players want a bigger piece of the pie. That’s the main issue that we’ll be talking about and reading about this offseason: how can everyone be happy with how much money they’re making? 

Don’t expect this negotiation to keep the game on ice, though, like it did during the standoff of 2004-05. With parity at an all-time high, excitement back in the sport and plenty of momentum, these two sides should find a way to keep things moving by agreeing upon a new CBA this offseason.

Feels like the Stanley Cup was awarded just yesterday but we’re already into full offseason mode. We’ve already seen plenty of activity over the last couple of days with the Lightning acquiring goaltender Anders Lindback and the Sharks picking up defenseman Brad Stuart.

There is going to be plenty of activity in the upcoming weeks and months, so here’s a look at the key dates for the NHL offseason. 

NHL Awards: June 20th 

There’s going to be many important dates this offseason but this is not one of them. The NHL Awards show is a nice night to celebrate hockey but the show is a bit of a farce. Consider that Ken Hitchock is likely to win Coach of the Year even though Darryl Sutter took over the struggling Los Angeles Kings midseason and turned them into the Stanley Cup champs. Or that Henrik Lunqvist is likely to be award the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie even thoughJonathan Quick should win it given how he performed down the stretch of the season. 

Nonetheless, it should be a fun night for hockey fans to reminisce on a fantastic season. 

NHL Entry Draft: June 22/23rd 

The first significant event of the 2012 offseason will be the NHL Entry Draft. In previous years, the Entry Draft has preempted the first day of free agency as the big moves have happened at the draft. 

Once again, the Edmonton Oilers will have the first pick overall but all eyes and ears are all several players involved in trade rumors. Is this the time that Rick Nash and Roberto Luongo are finally dealt? Will the New York Rangers move Brandon Dubinsky and will the Toronto Maple Leafs trade to the top of the draft? 

Expect a slew of trades to go down this Friday and Saturday as the NHL welcomes a new class of youngsters to the big leagues. 

Zach PariseFree Agency: July 1st 

The free agent frenzy will begin on July 1 and there are going to be plenty of teams with cap space looking to make a splash. At the top of everyone’s board is going to be New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise, who led the team to the Stanley Cup final. On defense, Nashville Predators minutes-eater Ryan Suter is going to be targeted. 

The Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, and Winnipeg Jets lead the way in regards to cap space. Keep in mind that none are the typical major-market power players in free agency, so it will be interesting to see whether they are inclined to spend. 

CBA Expires: September 15th 

The most important day in the 2012 NHL offseason could be September 15, which is when the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire. NHL fans still approach these types of negotiations with trepidation given what they’ve been put through previously. 

The good news is that the NHL is in far better financial shape than they were in 2004-05. This time around, there’s more money to go around and the threat of a lockout should be minor. 

The main issues that need to be hashed out is the player’s share of the revenue, the salary floor (the poorer teams would like it lowered) and guaranteed contracts. The NHL would like to move closer to a system that we see in the NFL and lose the guaranteed contracts (see: Rick DiPietro) but that’s not likely to happen. 

If the NHL really wants to put their foot down to achieve these things, we might in fact see a lock out. What’s closer to the reality is some kind of compromise that won’t alter our regularly scheduled programming.
The Los Angeles Kings had a magical run through the 2012 postseason and captured the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. And while they prepare to rejoice, celebrate and embrace this moment, us bettors are already looking ahead: can the Kings do it again?

The Kings are listed as 11/1 by NHL odds makers to repeat, and the consensus right now is that they could have a dynasty in the making. Given the amount of parity there has been in the NHL in recent years, that’s unlikely, but let’s take a closer look at the Kings and see if they’ll have a shot to repeat. 

The Offseason 

Jeff CarterSimilar to the Boston Bruins after they won the Stanley Cup, the Kings hit the offseason with very minimal work to do. They don’t have a lot of key unrestricted free agents and, given their salary cap situation, they probably have the option to bring a number of them back. 

Veterans Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Frasor are all unrestricted. The Kings might consider bringing Penner back at a cheaper price tag than his $4.25 million, but he’ll probably get more than that as a free agent. He was largely a disappointment until the second half of this season and playoffs, so they probably feel they can replace him. 

Stoll is an excellent faceoff man, and he made $3.6 million last season. He’s still just 30 years old and is clearly a valuable asset, so the Kings would be smart to bring him back as long as it’s around $4M a year. 

Frasor is a plugger, who can be brought back or replaced; doesn’t much matter either way. Lastly, the Kings will have to deal with Dwight King, but he’s a restricted free agent, so he’s likely to be back. 

As for the blue line, it’s entirely signed and should return intact. 

The Kings do have one asset that they can move to help upgrade the team and that’s backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning might be interested in the young goalie, and the Kings might be enticed into getting a contributer for him. The thing is, the Kings have over $15 million in cap space this offseason, so they have plenty of flexibility to make the decisions they want. 

The 2012-13 Season 

Darryl Sutter will clearly return as the head coach of the Kings; whatever buttons he pressed in the second half of this season, they clearly worked. The lazy, sloppy, low-scoring Kings that underachieved under Terry Murray were awesome under Sutter. There’s no question that this unit should be more cohesive and confident next season, which likely means a shot at the Presidents’ Trophy. 

Goaltender Jonathan Quick is among the best – if not the best – in the NHL. The blue line is only getting stronger. The offensive units will get a full season with Jeff Carter and, considering they already have Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne and Justin Williams, they appear to be in great shape. 

So what’s going to stop the Kings from winning the Cup again? Parity. 

The NHL is so wide open nowadays that it almost seems crazy to trust any futures right now. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks are again among the favorites, but let me remind you that both teams exited the playoffs in the first round. The St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers came out of nowhere to shoot up to the top of their respective conference standings while the reigning Cup champs, the Boston Bruins, meekly left the playoffs after just three wins. The Washington Capitals were supposed to be a wrecking ball crew, but they fell off the map, while the Florida Panthers won their division and the New Jersey Devils won the Eastern Conference. 

On top of that, the No. 8 seeded Los Angeles Kings not only won the Stanley Cup but did so in such dominant fashion that reminisced of the olden days of the dominant Edmonton Oilers. 

The only thing stopping the Kings from repeating is parity. Just as when watching the Super Bowl, we see a champ emerge and think: “Who’s going to stop the Green Bay Packers over the next five years?” and the answer is always parity. Walking around with a bigger bulls-eye, dealing with more injuries and having to be a favorite compared to being an underdog typically hampers the champs. 

If the Kings can handle those and catch all the breaks again, they can surely repeat. Otherwise, expect parity to present us with a new Stanley Cup champion in 2012-13. 

Odds courtesy Bovada:

Pittsburgh Penguins     7/1

Los Angeles Kings       11/1                 

Chicago Blackhawks  12/1                 

Detroit Red Wings       12/1                 

New York Rangers      12/1                 

St. Louis Blues             12/1                 

Vancouver Canucks     12/1                 

Boston Bruins              14/1                 

Philadelphia Flyers       14/1                 

Nashville Predators      18/1                 

San Jose Sharks            22/1                 

Anaheim Ducks           25/1                 

Buffalo Sabres             25/1                 

Tampa Bay Lightning 25/1                 

Washington Capitals    25/1                 

New Jersey Devils       30/1                 

Florida Panthers           35/1                 

Toronto Maple Leafs  35/1                 

Colorado Avalanche    40/1                 

Dallas Stars                 40/1                  

Ottawa Senators          40/1                 

Phoenix Coyotes          40/1                 

Winnipeg Jets             40/1                  

Calgary Flames            50/1                 

Carolina Hurricanes     50/1               

Edmonton Oilers          60/1                 

Montreal Canadiens     60/1                 

Columbus Blue Jackets            75/1                 

Minnesota Wild           75/1                 

New York Islanders     75/1
Trailing three games to none, the New Jersey Devils will try and live to play at least one more home game this season when they face off against the Los Angeles Kings this Wednesday night at the Staples Center in Game 4 of this season’s Stanley Cup Finals.

New Jersey on the ropes

New Jersey has painted itself into a corner in this series with just two goals in three games. The result is an 0-3 deficit against a team that has lost just two games the entire postseason. The first two contests ended as 2-1 losses in overtime, but Wednesday night’s 4-0 shutout as 136 road underdogs put an exclamation point on just how bad the Devils have been outplayed in this series.

The ability to take advantage of the power play has been a sore spot throughout the playoffs, but it most likely cost New Jersey the game on Wednesday night. The Devils had a golden opportunity to take an early lead on a 5-on-3 situation late in the first period and could not capitalize. Once the Devils fell behind by two goals in the second period, Game 3 was essentially over.

Kings one win away from the crown

Jeff CarterLos Angeles has been a model of consistency throughout these playoffs. It manufactured ways to take the early lead in each of its four series and refused to take its foot off the neck once it had a team down. The same formula that worked almost to perfection in the Kings first three series now has them just one win awayfrom the ultimate return on investment: a Stanley Cup Championship.

The only caveat to ending the Finals on Wednesday night is the curious fact that Los Angeles has already lost a Game 4 to both Vancouver and Phoenix this postseason. The desire to avoid another long trip back east - that could result in a potential celebration on their opponent’s home ice - should be motivation enought to put the Kings over the top in Game 4; another stellar performance by their goaltender would certainly help the cause, of course. Jonathan Quick is a shoe-in for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs after posting a ridiculous goals-against-average of 0.59 and a .972 save percentage in his first three games against New Jersey.

NHL odds makers currently have the Kings installed as -180 home favorites to win the cup tonight. The total has remained at 4.5.

Betting trends

The Devils are 19-9 in their last 28 games as road underdogs, but just 1-4 in their last five Stanley Cup Finals games. The total has stayed UNDER in three of their last four games. 

The Kings are 5-2 at home in the postseason and 9-1 in their last 10 playoff games as favorites. They are also 20-6 in their last 26 games following a win. The total has stayed UNDER in six of their last seven games. 

New Jersey has fallen to 2-6 in the last eight meetings. The total has stayed UNDER in the first three games of this series and in the last six meetings overall. 

Prediction 

The Devils will come out flying around with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude, but they have already been psychologically beaten by a goalie they simply cannot score on. Quick remains the difference one more time as Los Angeles sweeps the series and wins a much-deserved championship.

Los Angeles 3     New Jersey 1

For a fourth straight playoff round, the Los Angeles Kings have won the opening three games of the series and are now on the brink of winning the Stanley Cup. As a No. 8 seed from the Western Conference, who could have not only predicted this but foreseen such dominance?

The Kings have won 15 of 17 playoff games and the New Jersey Devils – just like the three opponents before them – have had no shot whatsoever against the Kings. At this point, New Jersey sees the writing on the wall: it’s over. No matter what happens in Game 4, they know that there’s no way they can win four straight against the Kings – especially since they’ve only lost two playoff games in total. 

And that psychological aspect is going to be a problem for the Devils in Game 4. 

The Devils badly needed Game 3, but not only did things not get better, they got worse. In the first two games, the Devils at least had a chance in overtime as both games were tied 1-1 after 60 minutes. In Game 3, they were wiped off the map with a 4-0 result. 

Anze KopitarWhat’s scary is that the Kings still didn’t play their best game – in my eyes – as it wasn’t until the third period that they really turned up the heat. They played well in spurts throughout periods one and two but, in the third period, the Kings’ fore-check suffocated New Jersey and frustrated them as they have so many other teams. 

In net, Jonathan Quick is unbeatable. Not that the Devils are getting great chances on him, but they simply can’t find a way through him right now. He’s allowed two goals through three games and both came via lucky bounces. Ilya Kovalchuk has been a complete non-factor in this series, as have many of the Devils’ weapons. Their power play is dormant too as evidenced by their failure to score in a five-on-three situation in Game 3. 

This series is done. The Kings can smell blood and they’ll be even more jacked up in Game 4 than they were in Game 3. Their only two playoff losses have come in Game 4’s but with the Stanley Cup on the line and a chance to win it in front of their home fans, they’ll finish the job. As long as they score the first goal, New Jersey will fold. 

NHL odds makers have the Kings as heavy home favorites at -185. With the total at 4.5, not much scoring is expected.

NHL Picks: Kings 


New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings

NHL Odds: OVER/UNDER 4.5 

We almost lost the UNDER in Game 3 as the Kings got pretty sloppy near the end of the game, and the Devils actually had some decent scoring chances to push this game OVER the total. Even so, Jonathan Quick stood tall and earned the shutout for us to hit our parlay in the last game

Going into Game 4, Quick is the reason for another UNDER. As mentioned above, the Devils just can’t figure out a way to beat him. They’ve tried screening him, they’ve tried shooting high, they’ve tried crashing the net, they’ve tried to catch him moving side-to-side and they’ve tried firing non-stop shots at him. At the end of the day, they have just two goals to show for their efforts and both came off fortunate bounces. 

The Kings really ramped up the offense in Game 3 and proved that when they’re on, the Devils can’t handle them. That’s really what scares me a bit off the UNDER because Los Angeles should get between two and four goals in Game 4, but will the Devils find the back of the net once or twice? Will the Kings get sloppy again if they get ahead by two or three goals? Are the Devils going to send more of their defensemen to pinch in since they’re getting no offense as is? 

I think the answers to those questions are yes, so I’ll take the OVER along with the Kings for Game 4.

NHL Picks: UNDER

Parlay:  Kings -170 & OVER 4.5 -104 ($100 @ 3.11 pays $311.49)