Kings off to Quick start in Cup Finals

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 for whatever reason. Perhaps that’s why we see many higher-seeded teams advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs and it’s almost old hat to see a No. 8 upset a No. 1.

Perhaps I should have considered this before predicting a New Jersey Devils victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals vs. 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 and L.A. won its fourth straight opener. New Jersey has now been down a game in all four series so far (twice vs. Florida) and the Devils won every game after falling behind. So maybe they have the Kings right where they want them heading into Saturday night’s Game 2 back in Newark.

Betting 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 8:31 in for L.A.’s 2-1 victory. 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 these playoffs, an NHL record. The Kings, who have actually won a record 11 straight playoff road games dating to last season, are one win shy of tying the NHL record for road victories in one playoffs.

As for the Devils, they were very quiet offensively with 17 shots, which just is not going to cut it against Conn Smythe Trophy favorite Jonathan Quick. Zach Parise had only three shots and was minus-2, while playoff leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk had one shot. The Kings held the Devils without a shot on net for the first 14½ minutes of the second period, and New Jersey had just eight total 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 the Devils are in the Finals is the play of their fourth line, which had 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, overall since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format teams taking Game 1 have gone on to win 55 of 72 Finals (76.4 percent).

Odds and trends

Game 2 opened as a ‘pick’em’ with both teams at minus $1.15 and the total at 4 1/2. The Devils are 6-3 at home during playoffs, with ‘over/under’ at 3-3-3. The Kings are 9-0 on road with the ‘over’ going 5-4.

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. The Kings 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.

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