Two Pacific Division teams will face off in Hollywood tonight, as the Los Angeles Kings (4-8-0, 8th Pacific) host the Vancouver Canucks (7-3-1, 5th Pacific). The Kings come into the game struggling, having lost three games in a row while giving up five goals in each contest. The Canucks, on the other hand, won their last game 7-2 over the Panthers and have been one of the most surprising teams in the league thus far. This is the second time these teams have played each other this year, with Vancouver smashing Los Angeles 8-2 in their home opener on October 9th.
Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with some odds and a prediction.
By the Numbers
We’ll start with Canucks, who right now look like they’re no fluke. Vancouver is fourth in the NHL with 3.64 goals per game. They’re 10th with an average of 32.6 shots on goal, but also have the fifth-best shooting percentage in the league at 11.1. But they’re not just succeeding on offense. In fact, this young Canucks team is third in both goals allowed at 2.36 and penalty kill with an 86.8 percent success rate. Their biggest deficiency is in shots allowed, where they rank 18th with 31.3 per game.
The Kings have had an eventful start to their season to say the least. They have been playing fast, possession-based hockey, and are actually leading the league in shots on goal with 37.3 per game. Furthermore, they are allowing the second-fewest shots on goal with just 28.3 per game. But thanks to not enough high-danger chances and bad luck, as well as a league-worst 6.9 shooting percentage, they’re just 24th in the NHL with 2.58 goals per game. And bad goaltending is mainly to blame for Los Angeles’ 4.08 goals allowed, the worst in hockey. Their power play and penalty kill are each bottom-five units as well.
What to Watch
A huge key for Vancouver’s recent domination, as well as their success on offense in general, is getting ahead early. Monday against Florida, the Canucks scored five goals in the first period and never looked back. And it was a whole group effort, with every line scoring in the first 10 minutes of action. While the Canucks have their stars like young phenom Elias Pettersson (3 g, 11 a) and veteran J.T. Miller (6 g, 7 a), they also have nine additional players who all have five or more points on the season. Look for Vancouver to use their depth again and carry out four solid lines capable of putting up points.
As mentioned earlier, the Kings have tried to control the pace and flow of games, taking more shots than anyone else in hockey and allowing the second-fewest. While their lack of scoring is partially attributed to bad luck, Los Angeles needs to make a stronger effort to take more quality shots, finish around the net, and control the counter attack. Los Angeles’ highest-scorers so far, All-Star Anze Kopitar (4 g, 7 a) and winger Ilya Kovalchuk (3 g, 5 a) each have a team-leading 12.5 percent shooting percentage, which is fine but not good enough when seven Canucks have better shooting percentages.
While the starting net minders haven’t been announced yet, expect Jacob Markstrom to get the start for Vancouver after Thatcher Demko started on Monday. Markstrom carries a 4-2-1 record with a 2.53 GAA and .920 save percentage. For Los Angeles, two-time Cup winner Jonathan Quick will likely start after Jack Campbell started in net on Sunday. Quick has struggled mightily with a 2-5-0 record, 4.48 GAA and .849 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
Los Angeles is a slight favorite at home, listed at -110. The over-under for the game is also listed at 6.0. For my money, I’m taking the Canucks to win on the road. The Kings are reeling right now, and despite getting a ton of shots, simply don’t have the offensive talent to dominate teams. Meanwhile, the Canucks are more-balanced and have a big advantage in net. Give me the Canucks +110 and for the over to hit in a 5-2 win.