The New York Rangers have won four of five playoff road games, but face a tough challenge in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Los Angeles.
After eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks with a thrilling overtime victory in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final, the Kings emerged as minus-170 series price favorites to win their second NHL championship in the last three seasons.
They will face the Eastern Conference champion Rangers, who are 3-2 underdogs to claim their first Stanley Cup win since 1994.
The Kings, who have enjoyed little rest after taking each of their first three series to seven games, will host Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday. They opened as minus-160 moneyline favorites at most sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.
Los Angeles started the season with odds of 14-1 in Stanley Cup futures betting, slipping to 16-1 as recently as early December. The club struggled all season to produce offence, finishing 12th in the West in goals scored.
With just 174 goals against, the Kings defense was the stingiest in the NHL this season. The prediction computer at Odds Shark has calculated a 2.9 to 2.8 final, which would push this game over the total of five goals.
It has been a different story in the playoffs. After surrendering four or more goals on just 10 occasions during the regular season, LA has done so in seven of their 21 playoff games.
But the typically defensive-minded Kings have also scored four or more on nine occasions, pushing the total OVER in eight of their last 10 playoff games. Fatigue will play a role in this series, as both teams have battled through almost the maximum number of games so far.
The Kings will need to maintain their offensive output to beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has been spectacular during New York’s unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The 32-year-old veteran, who led Sweden to a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics, has posted an amazing 2.03 goals against average in 20 playoff games, although he was pulled twice in earlier round games against Philadelphia and Montreal.
The Rangers have been a Stanley Cup futures betting long shot all season, opening the campaign with odds of 28-1, and plummeting to 33-1 in early January after it appeared they may fall out of playoff contention.
The Rangers rebounded but have not worn the mantle of clear favorite at the outset of any of their playoff series thus far.
The Kings and Rangers split their season series, with each team winning low-scoring affairs on the road; a trend that could favor New York in the Final.
Series Prediction: Kings sweep