Hydreabad, India (PressExposure) April 15, 2011 -- In the Free Hockey Picks last one of the eight series in the first round of Stanley Cup playoff betting action finally drops the puck on Thursday night at HP Pavilion, as the San Jose Sharks look to ward off the pesky Los Angeles Kings.
All of the talk surrounding the Kings is about how well they could possibly play in the playoffs without the services of Anze Kopitar. Though it's possible that Kopitar could be back eventually in these playoffs, it certainly won't be in the first round, and that leaves this team without a 60 point scorer on the year.
The good news for LA is that Jonathan Quick is one of the best keepers in the league, and he is surely going to have to be as good as it gets in order to beat the NHL playoff odds on a regular basis in this series. Quick picked up 35 wins on the campaign, and he had a rock solid 2.24 GAA. He was the leader of a defense that allowed just 2.4 goals per game on the campaign. That's a good thing, too.
The offense only averaged 2.5 goals per game, No. 25 in the league, and that was with Kopitar being in the fold for the mass majority of the season. Over the course of the last two games of the regular season, the Kings fell from No. 4 to No. 7 in the Western Conference, something that could really come back to hurt in this series.
San Jose made no mistakes at season's end, as it went from a team that was a borderline playoff team to one that was solidly the Pacific Division champions and the No. 2 seed in the conference. Sure, the Sharks have their deficiencies, but when push comes to shove, there is little to hate about this squad, save for the fact that it is one that has never won the Stanley Cup before and is a perennial choker in the postseason.
However, the addition of Antti Niemi gives the Sharks something that they have never had in their past. They now have a goalie with a Stanley Cup ring to his credit. Niemi won the title last year with the Chicago Blackhawks, and he would love nothing more than to repeat and prove his worth.
The offense speaks for itself for this team. There are just so many weapons out there on the ice on the top three lines, and any of about eight or nine players could log hat tricks in games in these playoffs.
Poor LA, there really couldn't have been a significantly worse first round foe than this in the playoffs. The Sharks should be able to advance with ease out of this series, and that starts with a Game 1 triumph for our Stanley Cup picks tonight.
Free Hockey Pick: San Jose Sharks
For More Great NHL Free Picks and Sports Picks, Check out BangTheBook.com!