Game 4 Awaits
The Kings host the Blackhawks tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California with the opening face-off slated for 9:05 PM ET. This will be Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals series with Los Angeles holding a 2-1 lead. According to NHL betting odds the Kings are a -130 money line home favorite, and the posted total is 5.0. The home team has won 8 of the last 11 meetings between these clubs. These teams have seen just 1 of their last 5 meetings in Los Angeles stay 'under' the total.
Kings are Scary Good Right Now
The Kings are far from a lock to win this series, especially considering they're playing the defending Stanley Cup champions who aren't going to lay down anytime soon. The Kings entered the playoffs having allowed the fewest goals in the NHL during the regular season, and possessed one of the best goaltenders in the world with Jonathan Quick. It was no secret that facet of their game was their calling card, and would likely determine how far they could go this postseason. However, what's been shocking has been the Kings offensive prowess during the postseason. They're currently leading the charts in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs averaging 3.3 goals per game. Putting that fact into perspective, they entered the postseason as the lowest scoring team among the 16 clubs that qualified for the playoffs. They've been led by the NHL Playoffs leading scorer in Anze Kopitar with 20-points in 17-games. Kopitar is also a finalist for the Frank Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward. Kopitar is a combined +40 between the regular season and playoffs this season.
Hawks Top Players Need to Show Up
The Blackhawks are in desperate need of a Patrick Kane siting. The star Chicago forward has had just 1-goal in the Hawks last 8-games, and has been held in check through the first 3-games of this series. Although Patrick Sharp scored a meaningless goal with just 0:03 to play in Game 3, it surely was important from a confidence standpoint. Jonathan Toews was able to give the Hawks an early boost with 2 first period goals in Game 3 on Saturday, but nobody else was able to stand up over the last 2 periods, when the Kings seized control of the game.
Road Woes Continue for Chicago
It's a bit mind boggling as to why Chicago has struggled so badly on the road in the latter half of the year. After all, this is one of the deepest teams in the NHL at both the forward and defense positions, in addition to having a top shelf goaltender with Cory Crawford. Nonetheless, the Blackhawks are a dismal 7-19 in their last 26 road games which includes 2-5 during the playoffs. They've also gone just 8-18 on the road this season versus opponents with a winning record. The Hawks can take solace in knowing this is the 4th time in their last 6 playoff series that they've trailed 2-1, and they were successful in coming back to win the previous 5. Take all these facts into consideration before making your hockey pick.
I understand the Blackhawks ability to overcome adversity, and the championship pedigree that they possess. However, their struggles on the road, and the fact the Kings are peaking at the most opportune time, seem a bit too much for me to ignore.
Free NHL Pick: Kings -130 over the Blackhawks