The Stanley Cup Finals is upon us and it begins Wednesday night in New Jersey when the Devils host the Los Angeles Kings.
NBC will have the telecast from the Prudential Center in Newark at 8:00 p.m. (ET). The Kings are between 115 and 120 road favorites depending on the wagering locale. The total is 4½ and shaded to the ‘over.’
The series price has been another hot topic and has ballooned as money has poured in on the Kings. They’re a 170 favorite with the Devils +150 on the take-back.
Let’s first look at Wednesday’s opener. Don Best Sports analyst Brian Blessing believes that the 4½-goal total is a little low as the familiarity between the teams is not there yet and goals should be scored before the hatred builds. The one cause for concern is Los Angeles coming off an 8-day layoff and the offense being a bit rusty.
New Jersey’s offense is underrated with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Adam Henrique all playing well. The power play is also clicking, which is another reason to expect some pucks in the net on Wednesday.
Looking at the overall series, the Kings’ power play is a big issue after being at 15 percent in the regular season. It’s down to 8.1 percent in the playoffs (ranked 15th of 16 teams) despite the tremendous overall winning success.
Jonathan Quick is a great goaltender but Marty Brodeur has raised his level of play despite recently turning 40. Blessing gives a slight edge in goal to the Kings, but the experience of Brodeur (3-time Cup champion) does mitigate that.
Blessing thinks the real difference in this series could be the Devils fourth line. They have been creating offense early and late in games and the consistent rolling of four productive lines could wear out Los Angeles.
The No. 8 Kings beat top-seeded Vancouver and St. Louis in the first two rounds, both predicted by Blessing before the series began. The key has been their record-setting 8-0 road mark in the playoffs.
Some critics do point to the fact that Daniel Sedin was hurt for Vancouver and St. Louis wasn’t as good as its record suggested. The conference finals win was over a pesky Phoenix team, but the Coyotes only made it that far due to a hot goalie in Mike Smith.
Sixth-seed New Jersey beat an underrated Florida team, and then two very good division foes in Philadelphia and the Rangers. The latter series ended last Friday, three days after the Kings, but that’s still plenty of rest.
Blessing originally thought that whoever came out of the Western Conference Finals would take the Cup. However, the Devils won him over last round and he believes they are the better value as the underdog, especially with home ice advantage.