Blackhawks at Kings Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 1/19/2013
Welcome to the first NHL free pick story of the 2013 season, one that has been shortened to 48 regular-season games -- and all of them intraconference matchups. It should make for an exciting season as losing streaks and injuries will be magnified – GMs really will have their work cut out for them this season in terms of potential trades. The trade deadline has been set this year at April 3 – by comparison, the 2011-12 regular season ended on April 7. The 2013 regular season concludes April 27, with the playoffs starting three days later. Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, if necessary, would be June 28. That will give the 2013 champs about 2.5 months off before starting training camp in September.
There are a ton of great matchups among the 13 games on Saturday. You have Pittsburgh and Philadelphia squaring off in their heated rivalry for the first time since the Flyers blew away the Cup-favored Penguins in the first round of last season’s playoffs. There’s the Rangers-Bruins matchup, with both expected to be Cup contenders. It’s the Blueshirts’ debut for Rick Nash. You can’t get much more historic than Leafs-Canadiens as those two open the season, as usual, against one another. But, yet again, it doesn’t appear either is much of a championship threat. Some like the St. Louis Blues as Cup winners this season, and they host the Red Wings, whose championship window might be closed with the retirements of future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and winger Tomas Holmstrom.
But I have to begin with Chicago at Los Angeles as the Kings raise the first Stanley Cup banner in team history. It’s a 3 p.m. ET start and will have regional NBC coverage.
Blackhawks at Kings Betting Story Lines
The last time the Kings took the ice at Staples Center, on June 11 of last year, they had blown a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals against New Jersey, which took all the momentum into Game 6. But the game was never in doubt, with Los Angeles scoring three first-period goals within four minutes of one another on the way to a 6-1 victory for the team’s first Cup in its 45-year history. The Kings were the first No. 8 seed to win it all.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was brilliant all postseason as L.A. lost just four games. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy by setting NHL records for save percentage (.946) and goals-against average (1.41) among goalies who played at least 15 playoff games. The Kings’ Dustin Brown, who tied for the postseason lead with 20 points, became just the second American-born captain to hoist the Cup (Stars’ Derian Hatcher).
It’s important to remember that L.A. wasn’t a great regular-season team and didn’t even clinch a playoff spot until game No. 81. Two moves during last season were key for the Cup run. On Dec. 12, 2011, the Kings fired head coach Terry Murray when they were 12th in the West and last in goals. Shortly thereafter, Darryl Sutter was hired as the coach. And then in late February, Los Angeles acquired center Jeff Carter from Columbus for a package built around rising young defenseman Jack Johnson. Carter proved to be exactly what the offensively-challenged team needed. He had six goals and three assists in 16 games with L.A., which played markedly better once Carter arrived. In the playoffs, Carter had eight goals and five assists.
There is one key King who will miss this game: center Anze Kopitar. He sprained his right knee on Jan. 5 while playing in Sweden during the lockout. Kopitar is officially called doubtful, and it’s doubtful that L.A. would rush him back with such a condensed schedule. Kopitar led the team in the regular season with 76 points and tied with Brown for the overall playoff lead with 20 points.
The Blackhawks finished with 101 points, good for No. 6 in the West last season. But the 2010 Cup champions flamed out in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Hawks were series favorites against Phoenix, but goalie Corey Crawford struggled mightily in the six-game series loss. The Coyotes, not exactly an offensive juggernaut, scored at least three goals in five of the six games, and Crawford had an awful .893 save percentage. But he’s the No. 1 guy for now, with journeyman Ray Emery at No. 2. Chicago didn’t add or lose anyone of significance in the offseason.
The good news of the lockout is that Hawks first-line winger Marian Hossa is 100 percent recovered from a concussion suffered on a truly devastating hit by Phoenix’s Rafa Torres in the playoffs. Torres ended up getting a 21-game suspension for the hit and will miss the first eight of this year after sitting out 13 playoff games. Hossa led the Hawks with 77 points during the regular season.
The only injury for the Hawks is to defenseman Steve Montador. He suffered a concussion in a game last February, returned for one game in late March but was shut down and still isn’t ready. Montador had 14 points and was plus-4 in 52 games last season.
Los Angeles won three of the four meetings in 2011-12, two in regulation and one in a shootout. Chicago’s lone win did come in L.A. No game between these had more than five goals, and the Hawks never scored more than two. They were blanked twice.
Blackhawks at Kings NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, the Kings are -115 with the Hawks at +105. The total is set at five. Chicago was 18-18-3-2 on the road last season and 19-22 “over/under”. The Kings were 22-14-0-5 at home and 13-27-1 O/U.
The Blackhawks are 3-10 in past 13 games against Pacific Division teams. The Kings are 8-0 in their past eight against Central Division teams. The under is 4-0 in Chicago’s past four against Western Conference teams. The under is 5-1 in L.A.’s past six at home. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings in Los Angeles. The road team has won four of the past five.
Blackhawks at Kings Picks and Betting Predictions
It’s always tough to gauge how a team will react on Banner Day. In their 2010-11 opener after winning the Cup, the Blackhawks lost 4-3 at Colorado and were beaten two days later to Detroit at the United Center when raising the banner. Last year the reigning Cup champion Bruins also lost their opener, at home to Philadelphia.
But if everything is close, as it appears to be here, always go with the best goaltender and that’s clearly Quick in this case. Take the Kings and the under.
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