Kings vs Lightning – NHL Pick for November 9th
The NHL returns after a relatively quiet Wednesday to the tune of a seven-game slate featuring some incredible matchups for this early in the season. The suddenly-hot Montreal Canadiens battle the Wild in Minnesota, the Ducks and Canucks duel in Anaheim, and Connor McDavid tries to build off an incredible overtime winner when he brings his Oilers on the road to take on the Devils.
Yet at the very end of the seven-game slate lies the most important and most entertaining game of the night. The Tampa Bay Lightning sit atop the Eastern Conference (and the rest of the NHL, for that matter) with a sparkling 11-2-2 record. With their team healthy after a brutal injury-riddled season last year, they are rolling over everyone in their path. Now they take their act on the road for their second night in two games against the LA Kings.
The Kings are no slouches themselves. LA is tied with Tampa Bay (before the Lightning’s result against the Sharks on Wednesday) with an identical 11-2-2 record. They sit atop the Western Conference and will be battling the Lightning for bragging rights over the rest of the NHL. The Kings have yet to lose in regulation at home with a 5-0-2 record, and will be trying to continue their dominance against the hottest team in the East.
Most surprising for the Kings has been their inability to score without their leading point-getter from last season. Jeff Carter is still nursing an injured ankle that will see him sit out for at least another 2-4 weeks, and yet the rest of his teammates have picked up his slack in his absence. After a dismal last season, Anze Kopitar has looked like the captain the Kings need, and one of the best two-way players in the entire league. He’s on a six-game point streak, with two goals and six assists during that span, while tasked with locking down the opposing team’s best player each night.
Unfortunately for Kopitar and the Kings, there’s not just one player on the Lightning they need to worry about. Tampa Bay is averaging an absurd 3.93 goals a game, thanks to the incredible duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. The two have combined for 48 points this season, and are by far the highest-scoring duo in hockey. Kucherov leads the league with goals at 14 and is almost averaging a goal a game. Both players are healthy and working off one another on the powerplay. The Kings will have to play smart and disciplined hockey if they hope to hold on against the surge of the Lightning’s high-powered offense.
Regardless of how strong a team is, playing two games in two nights on a different coast is always a challenge. Add in the fact that one of those teams is the LA Kings, and it doesn’t look like the Lightning have a chance to carry on their winning ways. While the line isn’t set yet, I’m comfortable that there will be a serious advantage to taking LA at home on the spread. Sit back and watch Kopitar and the Kings make easy work of a tired Lightning squad.