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NHL Playoffs: LA Kings vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights Preview, Predictions, Betting Odds and Full Schedule

NBC LA previews the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Los Angeles Kings and the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

No, this is not a Game of Thrones episode or a Camelot remake.

It's the Kings and Golden Knights in the first round of the 2018 NHL Playoffs that pits to Pacific Division powerhouses against eachother in the postseason for the first time.

If you're unfamiliar with hockey's new darling let us fill you in:

The Las Vegas Golden Knights completed the greatest inaugural season in the history of the NHL. The expansion team not only made the playoffs in their debut season, but they tallied 109 points, the most by an expansion team in NHL history, shattering the old record of 83 points (84-game schedule) by the Florida Panthers in 1993.

However, the Golden Knights are limping into the postseason, having lost two of their final three games while conceding 15 goals over that span.

The Golden Knights have a vaunted offense, led by William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reily Smith and James Neal. Their strengths are speed and depth. Vegas ranked fifth in the NHL in scoring in 2018 and easily won the Pacific division, but can they maintain that level in the playoffs?

During the regular season, the Golden Knights were 2-1-1 against the Kings, but they lost their last two games against the Kings on back-to-back nights at the end of February. 

The Los Angeles Kings are two-time Stanley Cup Champions. They have a combination of tenacious defense, veteran leadership and one of the best goalies in the game. 

However, the Kings were not expected to be here. NHL's royalty missed the playoffs entirely two out of the last three seasons, and the one year they did qualify, they were easily eliminated in five games by the San Jose Sharks.

Handcuffed by salary cap constraints, and with a new head coach, the Kings were expected to miss out on the postseason in 2018. But recent resurgences from veterans Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown made the Kings a playoff team, albeit a flawed one.

The Kings lack depth on their lines, and outside of Kopitar, Brown, Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter, don't have much offense. They too sputtered down the final few weeks of the regular season and are riddled with injuries heading into the playoffs.

This series could be determined by the 72" x 48" inch net on each side of the ice that will house veteran netminders Jonathan Quick and Marc-Andre Fleury; two of the top goaltenders in the league.

Fleury has plenty of postseason experience thanks to his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins that saw the goalie win three Stanley Cup trophies in the last decade.

On paper, the Kings look like the team with all the playoff experience, especially when compared to the collection of discarded toys that is the Vegas Knights roster.

However, the Knights have plenty of individual experience as pointed out by Kings' defenseman Alec Martinez on Sunday:

"Yeah, it's their first season playing together, but there is still a lot of playoff experience," said Martinez. "James Neal has been to the Final last year, Fleury has won a couple times the last few years. There's playoff experience and new guys on both sides."

As Martinez mentioned, Fleury and Neal both have a lot of postseason experience, including playing against each other in the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals with the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that said, collectively, they have never played in the postseason as a team, nor has the city of Vegas ever tasted playoff hockey.

Can the Knights calm the initial adrenaline storm and focus on the game? Or will the Kings Stanley Cup experience win out?

Schedule: 

Game 1: Wednesday, April 11: Kings at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. -- NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Game 2, Friday, April 13:  Kings at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. -- NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports  

Game 3, Sunday, April 15: Golden Knights at Kings, 10:30 p.m. -- NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Game 4, Tuesday, April 17: Golden Knights at Kings, 10:30 p.m. -- NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Game 5, Thursday, April 19: Kings at Vegas Golden Knights, 10 p.m. -- TBD
*Game 6, Saturday, April 21: Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings, TBD 
*Game 7, Monday, April 23: Kings at Vegas Golden Knights, TBD

Betting Odds Courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Vegas Golden Knights: +700 to win the cup (4th best odds)
Los Angeles Kings: +2200 to win the cup (10th best odds)
Golden Knights are favorite to win Game 1 at -135.

Prediction: 
Kings in 7.

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