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NHL L.A. Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks Free Game 1 Pick | NHL Preview

Kings vs Blackhawks NHL Spread/Handicapping

Two teams coming off exhausting seven game semi-final series meet in the Western Conference Final that starts Saturday in Chicago. It isn’t much of a surprise that both the Kings and Hawks are in this position – each has won a Cup in the last four years and each has the quintessential formula for success in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Los Angeles Kings (35-19-3-4) at Chicago Blackhawks (44-10-1-5)
When: 5:00 PM ET, Saturday, June 1, 2013
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Broadcast: RDS, TSN, NBCSN
Kings vs. Hawks Betting Lines
Los Angeles Kings +1½ -245 +133 Ov 5 +132
Chicago Blackhawks -1½ +205 -146 Un 5 -145

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Kings and Hawks Kick Off West Final Saturday Afternoon

The defending champion Kings have 19 current players whose names are engraved on the Stanley Cup. Experience would seem to be on their sides except for the fact that the Hawks have a few Stanley Cup winners on their roster as well.

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The Los Angeles Kings have been successful in their efforts to repeat as Cup Champions so far but almost all of their success has come on home ice – they have just one win away from Staples Center and that is precisely where this series starts. Los Angeles has won eight straight home playoff games, dating to the last one of last season, and 14 consecutive overall, dating to the recently completed regular season.

The LA Kings enter Game 1 with a familiar issue – goal scoring. They scored just nine goals in the final five games against San Jose and they have combined for 20 goals in 13 playoff games. Jeff Carter leads with five and Justin Williams snapped an eight game goalless streak in Game 7 against San Jose – a very good sign for the offensively challenged Kings. He now has four goals in the playoffs. Still, LA needs Dustin Penner who is pointless in five games, Anze Kopitar who was quiet in the last round and Dustin Brown who has three goals and just four points in 13 contests to step up against a very dangerous Chicago team in Game 1.

Jonathan Quick has been the story for the Kings. He has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last five games. Overall, he has a 1.50 GAA and .948 save percentage in the playoffs, which is almost identical to his 2012 postseason numbers when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy. However Quick, who has been sensational in the playoffs, wasn’t during the regular season against Chicago with an .857 save percentage in three appearances.

Now for the Chicago Blackhawks. They were down 3-1 in the series with Detroit but they won three straight games to clinch the series. They too have a sensational goaltender that is also in the running along with Jonathan Quick for the Conn Smythe – Corey Crawford. Crawford posted a .948 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against average (six goals allowed on 117 shots against) in the last four games of the conference semifinals. He has a 1.70 GAA and .938 save percentage in the playoffs. The Kings will have some work to do to get to Crawford indeed – he is on fire, playing with a ton of confidence and is a big reason Chicago has killed a league-high 97.6% of its playoff penalties. [ad-4437448]

Chicago’s offense was a better unit than the Kings all season long and they have continued their strong play in the playoffs – they rival Pittsburgh for the most talented offenses left in the postseason. The Hawks erupted for 10 goals in the final three games against Detroit with everybody contributing.

Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews looked to be struggling in the offensive zone before waking up in the last three games of the Conference semi-final. Sharp netted the first goal in Game 7 against the Red Wings, his first goal since Game 1 of the conference semifinals. He had five goals in the five-game first-round series against the Minnesota Wild, so maybe he is about to hit another hot streak. Toews scored his first goal of the playoffs in Game 6 against the Red Wings. He was held off the score sheet in Game 7 but looked more dangerous as the series wore on. Marian Hossa was a big part of the Blackhawks’ comeback against the Red Wings with a goal and four points in his last three games while names like Michal Handzus, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad are big, fast and skilled. It’s pretty hard to match up with the Hawks for anyone – LA is no different.

Betting Prediction


A few trends to consider:

• Under is 7-0-2 in LA last 9 road games.
• LA are 1-11 in their last 12 road games.
• Under is 6-1-1 in LA last 8 vs. Central.
• CHI are 10-3 in their last 13 Sat. games.
• Under is 9-3-5 in CHI last 17 overall.
• CHI are 44-16 in their last 60 overall.
• Road team is 6-2 in the last 8 meetings.
• LA are 5-12 in the last 17 meetings.

The obvious play to me is the Under for the foreseeable future. It looks like a lot of 2-1 games are going to be played in this series. But if forced, I would take Chicago in Game 1. The Kings have just one win on the road in the playoffs and in a hostile United Center they will have a tough time overcoming the emotion. Take the home team to start it off right and never lose sight of the Over/Under – goaltending will be a factor in every game in the series.

Pick: Chicago Blackhawks -146 and the Under – 5 goals


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