“There’s no way they’re going to be a better team than us by the end of the season.”
— Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Golden Knights on Dec. 28 at Staples Center
Drew Doughty has talked the talk as the outspoken and sometimes brash star for the Los Angeles Kings. He’s also walked the walk as a four-time NHL All-Star, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and a Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman.
But handicapper Dana Lane believes Doughty’s guarantee that the Kings would be better than the Golden Knights by the end of the season will backfire in the teams’ Western Conference quarterfinal series.
“You don’t want to give a team bulletin-board material that already has a chip on their shoulder,” said Lane (@DanaLaneSports).
Technically, Doughty already failed to deliver on his boast when the Knights finished the regular season with 109 points (51-24-7) and the Pacific Division title, while Los Angeles finished in fourth place with 98 (45-29-8). But the true measure of a team is defined in the postseason.
The Knights are a minus-135 favorite over the Kings (plus 115) in their playoff series. Lane, who went 69-43-3 ATS (61.6 percent) making the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s daily Power Play pick, likes the Knights to win the series in six games.
■ Knights (minus 135) over Kings in series
“I think they get by L.A. fairly easy in the first round,” Lane said. “The Knights are superior offensively with five 20-goal scorers and five players with over 50 points. The Kings have three 20-goal scorers and three with 50 points. In the end, Vegas has too much offensive talent for L.A. to keep up with.
“Even though L.A. has the experience edge, Marc-Andre Fleury coming off a Stanley Cup title last year is probably going to be the equalizer.”
The Knights are minus-140 favorites over the Kings (plus 130) in Game 1 on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
“I’ll probably just ride them in every game,” Lane said.
He sees the Knights’ magical season coming to an end in the conference semifinals against the San Jose Sharks, who are two years removed from losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.
“I really feel like San Jose’s pedigree of being in the finals and being in huge games the last couple years will be too much for Vegas to overcome after a physical series with the Kings,” he said. “Defensively, San Jose smothers them.”
Lane’s top two series plays are on the Sharks (plus 105) over the Anaheim Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets (plus 110) over the Washington Capitals.
■ Sharks (plus 105) over Ducks in series
San Jose won three of four meetings with Anaheim this season and lost the fourth in a shootout.
“I really like the fact the Sharks are going on the road for Game 1. I never put too much emphasis on home-ice advantage. It presents the chance for you to split, and that really gives you an advantage going back home,” Lane said. “Is it realistic that the Sharks can split? Absolutely.
“Anaheim is far from an intimidating atmosphere. San Jose’s pickup of Evander Kane has been huge, and I don’t think the Ducks can match the Sharks from an offensive standpoint.”
■ Blue Jackets (plus 110) over Capitals in series
“Over the last month, Columbus leads the league in goals scored and is playing as well as anyone in the league,” Lane said. “Washington is dead last in shots per game. That will hurt them against the Blue Jackets, who will have 35 to 40 shots per game against a very shaky goaltending tandem.”
■ Stanley Cup pick
Lane likes the Penguins to beat the Sharks to win their third straight Stanley Cup title.
“The Penguins have so much depth that they feel confident putting a 34-goal scorer in Phil Kessel on their third line,” he said. “It’s a team that has three top-1o scorers in (Evgeni) Malkin, (Sidney) Crosby and Kessel. No team in the league puts more pressure on the opposition’s goalie than Pittsburgh.
“They’re peaking at the right time. I really like Mike Sullivan as coach, and they have an easier way in the postseason.”