Thursday Picks: Offense versus Defense as Penguins Face Kings
The Penguins and Kings face off in a battle of offense versus defense. Led by Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick the Kings have one of the best defensive corps in the entire NHL. They will be going up against a scoring juggernaut in Pittsburgh.
A big day for the NHL with ten other games being played. 14 teams playing on this Thursday are still being considered for playoff contention, and the other teams are starting to let the young guys play more. This time of the year leads to some fun, intense games.
Penguins vs. Kings
Changes in the Locker room
Recently the Kings made a trade that sent forwards Marion Gaborik and Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Dion Phaneuf and forward Nate Thompson.
Dion Phaneuf has played in 955 career games where he has recorded 478 points. Phaneuf will be a welcome addition to an already stellar defense. He brings a veteran presence that can make all the difference. Last season he was one of the driving players behind the Ottawa Senators run into the Eastern Conference finals.
Nate Thompson is a very good role player. He should help boost a Los Angeles offense that has struggled all season. In 43 games this year Thompson has 11 points on four goals and seven assists. His ice time typically hovers around seven to ten minutes per game. He will be a valued addition to the third or fourth line in Los Angeles.
This trade should be good for the Kings; however, they are losing two decent players in Marion Gaborik and Nick Shore. Shore and Gaborik have combined for 29 points this season, and for a struggling offense, those are a lot of points to be letting go. The adjustment period will have to be quick, but I am sure the Kings can pull it off.
Penguins Got The Power! Play.
The Penguins power play has been on a tear so far this season. Their 26.7-percent rate is the highest the team has had since the 1995-96 season when they finished with a 25.95-percent rate.
Pittsburgh has scored multiple power play goals 14 times this season which is the most in the NHL. A lot of this is due to the speed and talent of the Pittsburgh players. Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins players are adapt to drawing penalties. They have drawn the fifth most in the league, and it is a significant reason as to why they have been winning more games.
A Defense Fit For A King
The Kings defense this season has been terrific. They are allowing just 2.47 goals per game, which is good for the third-best total in the NHL. They have had 30 games this season in which they have allowed two goals or less, and in those games, they are boasting an impressive 25-5-0 record.
The Kings are a defensive unit that is very in sync with each other. The defensemen keep the game in front of them, and if anything breaks down, they have superstar goaltender Jonathan Quick as the last line of defense.
Quick has been off his game a bit so far this season, but his recent play has been pretty good. The Star goalie also has a pretty good history against the Penguins. Quick is 3-3-3 all-time against the Penguins with a .903 save percentage and is allowing 2.56 goals per game.
If Quick is on his game, he can give his team a much-needed boost. The Kings defense is very sound and if they can hold the Pens to under three goals the offense should be able to get it done.
The Kings are one of the most penalized teams in the league which is not good with a matchup against the league’s best power play; however, I think Quick will be locked in, and in a battle of offense versus defense; the defense will win. The Kings will take this one in a hard-fought low scoring game.
Lock Pick: Predators vs. Flames
In what will be the third and final meeting between the Predators and the Flames, Calgary flies into Nashville looking to hold onto their one-point lead in the Pacific Division over the Kings.
Coming off a three-game win streak the Flames have now lost two of their last three games; In those three games they have only been scoring 2.67 goals per game while allowing 3.67 goals per game, but they are going up against a Predators team that likes to keep it close.
All of Nashville’s last five games have been decided in extra time, but this is something that Nashville has become accustomed to. The Predators have played in 17 overtime games this year and have a record of 8-9.
One of those games was against the Flames where Calgary won 3-2 in a shootout decision, but the Predators responded to that game with a 2-0 shutout in the two teams’ last meeting. The Flames have a solid group of young scorers, but I expect the Preds to have a repeat of their previous meeting. It will still be low scoring, but Nashville will take it.
Upset Pick: Golden Knights vs. Oilers
Edmonton has had a very disappointing 2018 season. One year removed from a 103 point season and the Oilers are now in the race for the one pick, but Edmonton has still given us some pretty entertaining games. They have been especially good against the Golden Knights.
In the teams, two previous meetings the Oilers have won both of them; including an 8-2 route of the Knights back in November.
Even though Edmonton is a bad team in the standings; they still need to be respected. Connor McDavid is arguably the best player in the world, and role players Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are no slouches either.
Vegas is one of the best teams in the league, but they don’t have the weapons to slow down a player of McDavid’s caliber when he gets going. I think the Oilers will come out and play hard against the best team in the Western Conference and steal another one.
I got a feeling the Oilers will be lucky in Vegas.
Featured image courtesy of post-gazzette.com
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