Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8) at San Jose Sharks (51-22-9)
|Date & Time||Thursday April 17, 2014, 10:30 PM (EDT)|
The Line: San Jose Sharks -160 / Los Angeles Kings +145 --- Over/Under: 5
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The Kings and Sharks square off in San Jose for the series opener between these Pacific division rivals looking to play for the Stanley Cup.
The Kings enter the playoffs as one of the best and deepest third place teams in league history as they were the second runner up in the Pacific division behind San Jose and the division champions from Anaheim. Los Angeles is just two seasons removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup and still have a number of pieces remaining from that team including Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Dustin Brown up front along with Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, and Jonathan Quick on the blue line and crease. Los Angeles was one of the stingiest teams in the league and allow very few goals and are a mirror image of the team that won the Stanley Cup as an eight seed two seasons ago. The role players are going to be vital in this postseason for the Kings and if they can get a repeat of the balanced scoring attack we saw in that playoff run than LA should be more than capable of handling the Sharks and should be considered a threat to win the Cup.
The Sharks look as though they’re finally ready to overcome years of playoff futility as they have a very deep crop of forwards, a blue line that is experienced and dangerous, and a goaltender in Antii Niemi who has won the Cup before. However, there seems to be growing concern with Niemi’s play of late as the veteran back stopper has shown signs of slowing down and has had trouble seeing the puck in the last couple of weeks leading to speculation that Alex Stalock will get the nod instead. Either way, the goaltending “controversy” that has developed in San Jose can’t be good for their psyche as a lack of confidence in their goaltender can only magnify the pressure the Sharks feel and if they can’t stay focused than lasting a seven game series against a dangerous Los Angeles team won’t be feasible. I don’t understand how the Kings are this heavy of an underdog and with so much pressure now on Niemi I think the Kings exploit that and do enough to get by not only in this game but in this series.