The old adage in the four major American sports leagues is that home-court/field/ice
advantage is least important in the NHL because it’s much easier to win on the road in that
league. Perhaps that’s why we see many higher-seeded teams advancing in
the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Perhaps I should have considered this before predicting a New Jersey Devils victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.
For the first time in these playoffs, the sixth-seeded Devils have home-ice advantage in a series, but it didn’t change their luck as New Jersey lost the opener for the third straight series. L.A. won their fourth straight series opener.
New Jersey has now been down a game in all four series so far (twice against Florida), and the Devils won every game after falling behind. So they may have the Kings right where they want them heading into Saturday night’s game in Newark.
Kings at Devils Story Lines
Anze Kopitar provided the exciting ending to Game 1 when he broke free in the New Jersey
zone—after a Devils chance at the other end—and faked out future Hall of Fame goaltender
Martin Brodeur for the overtime winner.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty chipped the puck up the wall to Justin Williams, who drew both New Jersey defensemen near center ice. Williams flicked a backhand pass to Kopitar, who was left alone in the middle of the ice.
The Kings moved to 6-0 in games that have been tied after two periods, and they are 3-0 in
overtime in these playoffs.
This team is no joke on the road, having won all nine of its away games in the playoffs, an
NHL record. The Kings, who have actually won a record 11 straight playoff road games dating back to last season, are now one win shy of tying the NHL record for road victories in one playoffs.
As for the Devils, they were very quiet offensively with only 17 shots, which just isn’t going to cut it against Conn Smythe favorite Jonathan Quick. Zach Parise only had three shots and
finished with a minus-2 rating. The leading scorer of the playoffs, Ilya Kovalchuk, had only one shot.
The Kings held the Devils without a shot on net for the first 14-and-a-half minutes of the second period, and New Jersey had just eight total shots in the first two periods.
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who had two goals during the regular season, had the Devils’ lone tally late in the second.
One of the big reasons that the Devils are in the finals is the play of their fourth line, which has nine goals in this postseason compared to L.A.’s two. But Kings fourth-liner Colin Fraser gave L.A. the first-period lead with his first career playoff goal; he was the 16th King to score in these playoffs, which is hard to believe. It was the ninth time in the playoffs the Kings scored first, and they are 8-1 in those games.
The win bodes well for L.A.’s first Cup. While two of the past three Cup champions have
dropped Game 1 of the finals, since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format, teams
that have taken Game 1 have gone on to win 55 of 72 Stanley Cups (76.4 percent).
Kings at Devils Betting Odds and Key Trends
Game 2 opened as a PK with both at -115 and the total at 4.5 on NHL odds. The Devils
are 6-3 at home during playoffs, with over/under at 3-3-3. The Kings are 9-0 on road with a 5-4 O/U.
The Kings are 8-1 in their past nine playoff games as the favorite. L.A. is 13-3 in its past 16 road games. They have won 20 of their past 25 games after allowing two or fewer goals in the previous game.
New Jersey is 6-1 in its past seven games after scoring two goals or fewer in its
previous game. The under is 4-0 in L.A.’s past four games after a win. The under hasn’t hit once in New Jersey’s past six games after scoring two or fewer goals in the previous game.
NHL Picks: Kings at Devils Betting Predictions
Brodeur and several Devils blamed their disappointing performance on nerves, which is odd
considering that they are more experienced than the Kings. In reality, Game 1 was there for the taking as the Devils had more good chances to score than the Kings.
Whether it was bad luck (a third-period goal was waived off—the right call), bad ice (both teams complained about the surface) or just Quick being good, New Jersey probably isn’t feeling too bad about itself right now.
Most of the current Kings probably don't remember, but L.A. lost Game 1 on the road in
1993, their only other appearance in a Stanley Cup Finals, and wound up losing Game 2 to Montreal in overtime after ceding a power play goal on a late illegal stick penalty.
The Kings would end up dropping that series in five.
I’m not saying that happens here, but I still feel good about taking the Devils in the series. They better win, though, considering teams that have lost the first two games in the Stanley Cup Finals have won only five of 47 series.
New Jersey has bounced back in every other series when it was necessary, so I like them in Game 2, along with the under.