Sunday NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction: Los Angeles Kings vs. Washington Capitals
Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.
- The Washington Capitals host the New York Islanders in Sunday's NHL action.
- The Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin, enter this matchup as decent home favorites.
- Nicholas Martin breaks down the contest below and details why he's backing Washington.
Kings vs. Capitals Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Washington will return home after an emotional victory in Winnipeg on Friday, fighting through a tough roster situation to earn an excellent team win. The Caps will look to keep it going here in a favorable scheduling spot while receiving some pieces back from the COVID-19 list.
The Kings, meanwhile, took a tough loss against a shorthanded Carolina team on Saturday, never finding its way in the game after allowing two goals in the first 96 seconds.
Los Angeles are certainly better than it showed last night in what was no doubt an off-night, but will a better effort be enough to take two points from the league’s second-ranked club?
Washington Keeps Winning Without Key Players
Peter Laviolette has rightfully pushed to the front of the Jack Adams Award race, as his shorthanded crew continues to find ways to win.
Alex Ovechkin’s MVP-caliber play continues to grab the headlines, but the support seen top to bottom from the depleted roster has been tremendous.
The greatest stability the Capitals have offered has been the excellent two-way play of an excellent puck-moving defense core that loves to jump up to help generate offense, contributing 70 points already this season.
With Trevor Van Riemsdyk eligible to return for Sunday’s contest, the Caps’ excellent defense core will return to their regular pairings, which is a reason for the Capitals’ league-leading 59.53 xGF% in December.
That strong form from the back end will be very important, as both top centers in Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom remain on the COVID-19 list.
I was surprised to see how well the Caps navigated through what I felt was a considerably harder spot on Friday in Winnipeg without those two and Nick Dowd down the middle. Now, Washington will now get back the underrated Dowd, who has the potential to play head-to-head as an eraser against top offensive competition.
The Capitals have seen similar play from both netminding options, but I believe we will see Laviolette look back to Ilya Samsonov here. Samsonov has been solid, stopping 91% of shots faced with a -0.1 Goals Saved Above Expected rating (GSAx).
Can Los Angeles Cope With Defensive Absences?
Todd McLellan’s young crew continue to make positive strides forward this season, but a lack of consistency has it on the outside looking in at a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Life won’t get any easier for the time being without top defenseman Drew Doughty and fellow defenseman Alex Edler. The Kings quietly have a strong defensive core when healthy this season, but those losses force one of the league’s worst 5-on-5 defenders in Olli Maatta into second-pairing minutes.
Prospect Sean Durzi has been a notable positive back there for the Kings and helped fill the void. Los Angeles has controlled play to a 51.24 xGF% over its last eight games, but certainly the second pair can be exposed at the moment.
The Kings also don’t hold a notable amount of scoring talent throughout the lineup. I believe we will see them finish again as one of the league’s more notable underachievers with regards to expected goals, even though a -8.98 goals for above expected mark suggests lots of positive regression is coming.
With Cal Peterson out due to COVID-19, the Kings were forced to call up ECHL net-minder Jacob Ingham to back up Jonathan Quick on Saturday.
The club will possibly be able to grab from the Ontario Reign prior to tomorrow’s contest, or go back-to-back with Quick as opposed to some notably lesser options. That will be a situation worth monitoring.
Kings vs. Capitals Pick
The losses of Kuznetsov and Backstrom are meaningful but as we saw against Winnipeg, Laviolette’s crew is very capable of getting by without some key forwards, in large part because of its tremendous back end, which does a great job of driving play up the ice.
Originally, I had felt the value on this game might have lied with the Kings. With Doughty back out of the lineup, though, an iffy goaltending situation and the line being set closer than I would have expected, I actually see value on the shorthanded Capitals.
At the current number of -140 on DraftKings, I see solid value with the Caps even if Quick starts. If he doesn’t, we get a lot of value with that number.
Pick: Washington (-140 | play to -160)