Blackhawks vs. Kings Pick For Game 3

It certainly hasn’t been the start the Penguins were looking for in the Conference Finals against the Bruins. Boston has manhandled the Pens in the first two games, and Pittsburgh has been left searching for answers. Last night’s performance certainly baffled us, and cost a loser on our Under 5.5 goals wager. The Pens can’t keep the puck out right now, and the stifling defense of the Bruins is creating a world of problems for the high-powered Penguins attack. Still, Pittsburgh features the two best players in the world in Crosby and Malkin, and despite how dire the situation appears, you can’t ever count a team this loaded out. The Pens are now great value to win the Cup, and it’s something I’d strongly consider.

In the other series, Game 3 gets under way tonight as the L.A. Kings will look to once again overcome an 0-2 deficit against the highly confident Chicago Blackhawks. The Kings had some awful stretches in the opening games and it definitely cost them. That said, they are the NHL’s hottest team on home ice, having not lost there since the middle of March. Los Angeles is too proud a group to go down easily against Chicago and look for them to get back in this series beginning tonight. Read on below for further thoughts on tonight’s featured selection.

Chicago Blackhawks (+110) @ Los Angeles Kings (-130)

For a team that has been simply dominant in the past three months on home ice, it’s a tad surprising to see the Kings as such short favourites in a must-win spot. The Kings have faced adversity many times before, especially in their opening round series against the Blues. They lost the first two on the road, and went on to win four straight contests. While attaining that feat against the Blackhawks is undoubtedly much more difficult, this Kings squad remain the defending Cup champs and won’t go out easily.

Jon Quick has been unreal for much of this post-season but his last start was sub-par by his standards. Quick possesses the ability to falt out steal games for his Kings teammates and expect the American netminder to be in his finest form come Tuesday evening. To sum up tonight’s game, Kings forward Justin Williams noted “It’s not do-or-die, but it is.” L.A. realizes the importance of this game, and expect their best players to show up, and be their best players.

They enter with a 14-game home winning streak on the line in this one, but may again be without key centre Mike Richards. It has been rumored, but not confirmed that Richards is dealing with some concussion symptoms and if so, that’s a big loss, but not one a pesky group like the Kings cannot overcome. If Richards is out again tonight, look for promising prospect Tyler Toffoli to continue his emergence. Toffoli will one day be a prolific goal-scorer in this league and after experiencing great success at the AHL-level, the kid is ready for the spotlight. Not having a leader like Richards in the line-up is a big loss, but not one that will cripple this team’s chances at post-season glory once again.

Right now, L.A.’s biggest problem comes down to execution. They aren’t finishing on their passes or shot attempts, and as a result are down 0-2 in this series. Perhaps home ice can sway the momentum in this series. Expect Game 3 to be very different from a Kings’ perspective. The Kings have a lethal power play on home ice and expect that to get clicking to turn their tides. Also, look for the Kings to make conscious efforts to get pucks in deep and use the big bodies of their forwards to pound a small and weak Blackhawks defensive group. Beyond Duncan Keith, that blue-line corps remains susceptible and tonight’s the night L.A. exposes that. The Kings may not outplay the Blackhawks, but Quick will be unbeatable, and at a small home favourite price, the defending champs are worth a look tonight.

PICK = Los Angeles (-130)