The Los Angeles Kings are looking to make their 2018-19 season debut at home on Friday night. Los Angeles made some moves this offseason after getting swept in the first round. Now the Kings will look to get out to a fast start against their division rivals.
San Jose had a disappointing opening night game against the Anaheim Ducks. They fell in a 5-2 defeat. Evander Kane and Tomas Hertl scored the Sharks only two goals. Martin Jones had a rough night, allowing four goals on fourteen shots. The real struggle for the Sharks though, was the penalty kill. Anaheim scored two power play goals on three opportunities.
The Sharks made the biggest move of the offseason by trading for Erik Karlsson. Karlsson did not have a great debut with San Jose. He finished with zero points and a -2 plus/minus rating. I know Karlsson wants to get on the board and stopping him for two straight games is going to be hard.
Los Angeles had a pretty big pickup in free agency in Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk has spent the last couple of seasons in the KHL after leaving the New Jersey Devils. He was extremely productive in the KHL, but he is an aging forward. I believe he is still a productive player, but the three-year contract the Kings gave him may be a little long. He should slot in nicely in the top six this season though.
Last Seasons Meetings
Both of these teams are in the Pacific Division. They met four times last season and the Sharks took the series 3-1. Los Angeles took the first game by a score of 4-1, but the Sharks dominated by a score of 8-2 in the final three games. Both teams seem to match up well every season though. The close proximity and constant playing of each other makes this a fun rivalry.
Dylan DeMelo had the most points for San Jose against the Kings with 4. Kopitar had 4 points for Los Angeles against the Sharks. Overall though, both teams had a solid point production up and down the roster. Both teams had goalies that put up solid numbers as well.
Setting the Pace
One thing that is very important for both teams is setting the pace. San Jose likes to have a more defensive game style that sees the puck cycle a lot. Los Angeles likes to look for quick movement between their forwards to open up shooting lanes.
The Kings have a lot of good snipers, which they will look to get plenty of shots on Martin Jones, while the Sharks defense will look to minimize rebounds and quality chances. Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns will look to join the rush from the defensive position, while the Kings need to keep them pushed back with a constant rush.
Another key for San Jose is doing a better job on the penalty kill. The Sharks allowed two power play goals on three opportunities against the Ducks. The Sharks identity has been their defensive presence for a while now. It was a rough night, but I expect them to bounce back.
Jonathan Quick will get the start in Los Angeles’ net on Friday night. Quick finished last season with .921 save percentage and a GAA of 2.40. He is one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL. Last season, he struggled in the latter half of the season against San Jose.
I expect Martin Jones to play again on Friday night. Jones had a real rough start to the season, but it was only one game. Last season, Jones had a save percentage of .915 and a 2.55 GAA. I expect the defense to be really strong around him after their performance on opening night.
Quick is the better goalie in net, but Jones has had success against the Kings in his career. Jones really picks up his game against Los Angeles. I expect him to have a bounce back game against his Pacific Division rivals on Friday night.
The Sharks had a rough start to the season, but I believe they will come out really aggressive on Friday night. San Jose wants to avoid an 0-2 start to the season. Not only would the 0-2 start hurt, but it would also be two losses to divisional opponents.
The Kings will not roll over for their home opener. Los Angeles will be without Dustin Brown though, who was extremely productive last season alongside of Anze Kopitar. I am not sure if the Kings can beat an energized Sharks defense though. I believe the Kings will struggle against San Jose to begin another season.
BetOnline has the Sharks listed at a +100 money line. This has both teams pretty evenly matched with the Sharks as a small underdog. San Jose is the visiting team, but I believe there is quite a bit of value in this bet. The Sharks were solid on the road last season with a 20-14-7 record. On top of that, I believe San Jose will be looking at this game like a must win. I am riding the Sharks on the road.