Kings at Blackhawks Picks and Series Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 5/30/2013
NHL and NBC Sports officials must be literally jumping for joy with hockey's Final Four. Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. Those are the past four Stanley Cup Champions, only the second time that has ever happened in the conference finals. You have the No. 2 and No. 3 TV markets. Two Original Six teams. The defending champions trying to become the first club to repeat in 15 years. And, of course, the biggest hockey star on the planet, the Pens' Sidney Crosby. What more could the NHL ask for after alienating its fan base with the lockout?
While the Penguins and Bruins skated easily into their Eastern Conference Finals matchup, the Kings and Blackhawks both had to win a Game 7 at home out West. Los Angeles beat San Jose 2-1 on Tuesday thanks to two goals from Justin Williams (he's a stud with nine points in four career Game 7s) and 25 saves from reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick. The home team won every game in that series.
The Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against Detroit in the final playoff meeting between those Original Six rivals for likely a long time. The Hawks were forced to go to overtime on Wednesday night in their 2-1 win thanks to a very questionable double-penalty call that wiped out a go-ahead Chicago goal with less than two minutes remaining. Brent Seabrook won it for Chicago at 3:35 into overtime on a fairly innocent-looking shot that was deflected off course by Detroit's Niklas Kronwall and fluttered by Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. It was the first time the Hawks had won a series when trailing 3-1; it's the 25th time in NHL history it has happened. The Hawks are in the conference finals for the first time since winning the Cup in 2010.
Game 1 of the Kings-Blackhawks series is Saturday in Chicago. The two teams haven't faced off in the playoffs since 1974, when Chicago won in five.
Kings vs. Blackhawks Betting Story Lines
It's rather fitting that Chicago and L.A. are facing off, because they opened the NHL season on the afternoon of April 19 against each other at Staples Center, with the Kings raising their Stanley Cup banner. Chicago ruined the celebration with a 5-2 win, thanks to two goals and an assist from Marian Hossa, on the way to an NHL-record 24 straight games with at least one point to open the season.
The Kings appeared to have a Stanley Cup hangover, despite the extra time off with the lockout, losing their first three games and starting 5-6-2 overall. Los Angeles is coached by Darryl Sutter. He was hired late last season and led the Kings on their Cup run. He played for the Blackhawks in the 1980s and coached them from 1992-95.
Expect some very low-scoring games. Quick leads the playoffs with a 1.50 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. He almost assuredly will be Team USA's No. 1 goalie in next year's Olympics. Chicago's Corey Crawford is No. 2 in GAA (1.70) and No. 3 in save percentage (.938).
Chicago won two of the three regular-season meetings. The last two after that opener were at the United Center. The Blackhawks won 3-2 on Feb. 17, nearly blowing a 3-0 lead as L.A's Mike Richards had two third-period power-play goals. Hawks backup Ray Emery was in net for that one. It was game No. 15 in Chicago's season-opening streak. The most recent meeting was March 25, with Los Angeles winning, 5-4. Kings captain Dustin Brown converted his own rebound with 1:27 remaining for the winner. The Hawks played without an injured Hossa.
Jonathan Toews, who struggled for the first four games against Detroit, led Chicago with six points -- three goals -- against the Kings this season. Crawford had a 3.54 GAA due to that five-goal loss. Anze Kopitar (in two games) and Drew Doughty led L.A. with three points against Chicago. Quick had a 4.05 GAA.
The key injury here is to Kings third-line center Jarret Stoll. He was the victim of a vicious hit from San Jose's Raffi Torres -- the Blackhawks know all about him -- in Game 2 and hasn't played since due to a concussion. It doesn't seem likely that Stoll will be back early in this series if maybe at all. Stoll is excellent on faceoffs and a key part of L.A.'s special teams.
Kings vs. Blackhawks Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Chicago is -150 for Game 1 with L.A. at +130 and the total at 5. It's also -150/+130 on the series price. Chicago is +165 to win the Cup with Los Angeles at +340.The Kings were 11-8-5 “over/under” on road during season and 0-5-1 in playoffs. The Hawks were 9-11-4 O/U at home during season and 2-2-3 in playoffs.
The Kings are 8-1 in their past nine playing on at least three days of rest. Los Angeles is 6-1 in its past seven when scoring two goals or fewer in its previous game. The Kings are 1-11 in their past 12 road games. Chicago is 10-3 in its past 13 Saturday games. The Hawks are 9-3 in their past 12 after scoring two goals or fewer in their previous game. The under is 12-3-1 in the Kings' past 16 after allowing two goals or fewer in their previous game. The under is 3-0-1 in Chicago's past four after scoring two goals or fewer in their previous game. The road team has won six of the past eight meetings.
Kings at Blackhawks Series Picks and Betting Predictions
Can both teams hold serve at home? Obviously, if that's the case, Chicago would win the series. The Hawks had just three regulation losses at home during the season, while the Kings had four. L.A. enters this series having won 14 straight at home, while the Hawks were dominated at home in Game 2 against Detroit but are 6-1 there in the playoffs. The Kings are 1-5 on the road in these playoffs after being a dominant road team last postseason.
The Kings are one of the biggest clubs in the league and will definitely bring a physical presence. That affected Chicago in a big way in Games 2-4 against Detroit, especially Toews. I trust Quick more than Crawford, but the Hawks should have a big edge at forward. I actually think both teams win one road game -- probably Game 2 for L.A. -- but the Hawks win in seven. Take the under in every game.
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