NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Penguins vs. Kings (Jan. 13)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Penguins vs. Kings (Jan. 13) article feature image

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: Evan Rodrigues

Penguins vs. Kings Odds

Penguins Odds+120
Kings Odds-145
Time10:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Pittsburgh Penguins posted their 11th win in 12 contests on Tuesday night in Anaheim, but the most important note from that game is that Evgeni Malkin made his season debut in style with two goals and an assist.

The Kings, meanwhile, are nearly as hot as Pittsburgh as late with an 8-3-1 record in their last 12 games and strong underlying metrics to support their recent surge.

The Penguins are one fire and have gone 9-3-4 against the Western Conference already this season. Is that enough to warrant Pittsburgh sitting as a chalky road favorite on Thursday night?

The Penguins Are a Legitimate Contender

I will admit that I was wrong about the Penguins this season. I thought that Pittsburgh would struggle out of the gates without Malkin and Sidney Crosby and the lack of depth, plus some shaky goaltending, would sink them. My Under 98.5 points bet from the preseason is pretty much worthless at this point.

The Penguins hardly struggled without Crosby and Malkin, which allowed depth players like Evan Rodrigues and Kasperi Kapanen to shine, while Jake Guentzel has emerged as a true superstar, rather than someone just playing sidekick to Crosby.

Head coach Mike Sullivan has the team playing with sharpness and speed in all three zones, using an aggressive forecheck and great back-pressure to create turnovers and generate chances. The Penguins are just infuriating to play against right now.

And it's not like this run of form has been a fluke.

The Penguins lead the NHL with a 60.2% expected goals rate and a +26 goal differential over the last month.

I really don't enjoy saying it, but the Penguins are a realistic contender in a stacked Eastern conference.

With Casey DeSmith in Covid-19 protocol, we can pretty safely assume that Tristan Jarry will get the start on Thursday night. Jarry has been superb all season, skating to a +15.1 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) and a .932 save percentage (SV%) in 28 games played this season.

I would certainly argue the Penguins have been an excellent team in front of him and helped boost those marks, but there's no getting around the fact that Jarry has been terrific.

Is This the Peak for the Kings?

I would certainly argue that the Kings have not been as impressive their 5-2-0 record and 58.7% expected goals rate over the last three weeks suggests, and I expect them to start trending down.

This strong run of form started on Dec. 19 against a depleted Capitals team, a strong schedule spot against the Canucks, plus games against the Flyers and Red Wings, who have both been getting dominated of late.

Monday's commanding 3-1 win over an overrated Rangers team was impressive, but my point is that the Kings are likely not as vastly improved as their recent run suggests, and are likely just a middle-of-the-pack team playing well at the moment.

That said, I do believe the Kings are due for a bit of positive regression, as they've scored -16.8 goals below expected on the season. That's a big number and probably speaks to a lack of finishing talent, so it's very possible the Kings never regress to the mean.

The Kings will likely start Jonathan Quick in this game and that should set up for a strong goaltending matchup between two goalies enjoying bounce-back seasons. Quick has posted a +16.4 GSAx and a .921 SV% in 22 games this campaign.

Kings vs. Penguins Pick

Monday's excellent win over New York aside, I feel that if you put this Kings team in the Eastern Conference, they are probably entering this contest with a less impressive record and we'd see the true gap between these teams more clearly.

Even as home underdogs, I think the Kings are being overvalued against a Penguins team that is in dominant form. It may be square, but I think a play on the Pens at -145 makes a lot of sense, and I imagine we'll see this number move towards Pittsburgh before puck drop. Thus, if you are betting the Penguins I would suggest getting on it ASAP, while Kings bettors should be able to wait it out for a better price.

Pick: Penguins -162 or better

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