NHL Hockey Betting:  Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks&h=253&w=372&zc=1

The San Jose Sharks are coming off a season that by all metrics has to be considered a successful season. It’s hard to be disappointed with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. More significantly, it was the first trip to the Finals in franchise history for a team that for many years was synonymous with playoff underachievement. San Jose would lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games and now the Sharks are in a position that is common to every team sport–having to ‘climb the mountain’ again after losing the championship the year before. They’ve already got to deal with a brutally tough Western Conference draw and improved Pacific Division–now they’ve got deal with the ‘championship runner up hangover’. The ‘runner up hangover’ dynamic isn’t inevitable but is tough to shake. Case in point–the Super Bowl runner up Carolina Panthers are now 1-4 this NFL season.

Of course the Sharks are in great shape compared to the Los Angeles Kings. Just two years removed from a Stanley Cup Championship there’s a lot of concern that they’re a team that doesn’t have the personnel and tactics to contend for a title given the style of play in the NFL circa 2016. Los Angeles was a big, physically dominating team that made life miserable for opponents. Now they’re looking somewhat long in the tooth and perceptibly slower than most of their rivals. They’ve always lived and died with the performance of goaltender Jonathan Quick. The problem now is that while he’s still a top ten goaltender and on a given night can dominate he’s definitely not head and shoulders above the rest. His .918 save percentage was tied for #19 among ‘qualified’ goaltenders. On top of everything, they’ll be without forward Marian Gaborik for 8 weeks with a broken foot.

San Jose had a bizarre home/away dichotomy last year. They had the best road record in the NHL (28-10-3) but a poor home record (18-20-3). In all fairness, they started to improve this balance late in the year into the playoffs but it’s still a concern. On paper, however, they look like the better team in this matchup and home struggles aside we’re getting them at a decent price.