At some point the Vegas Golden Knights will stop being a cute little story and start being, well, a playoff contender. Vegas’ roster still has a lot of holes in it, and their two top goaltenders are hurt, but collecting 16 points out of a possible 18 to start the season puts them in an enviable spot. Vegas is certainly due for regression with a 106.55 PDO at 5-on-5, but at this rate, when that regression does come and they hit a swoon, they may have enough of a cushion to get into the dance. As the cliche goes, two points in October or November count the same as two points in March.
Last night’s action: With no column on Friday, we go back to Thursday’s packed card for our recap. We got winners from Boston, Florida and Carolina but were on the wrong side with Winnipeg, Detroit, the Islanders and Canadiens. It was pretty close to being a darn good night, with Detroit hanging with Tampa and the Jets taking the Penguins to overtime, but it wasn’t meant to be. Learn from it and move on.
The Sharks finish up their long East Coast swing with an afternoon tilt with Buffalo as favorites against the Sabres. Despite a 4-5 start to the season, San Jose has been playing decent hockey and is among the top five in Corsi For percentage (CF%) and the top 10 in expected goals for per 60 minutes. Meanwhile, the Sabres generate fewer expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than any other team in the NHL. San Jose gets us started in the early going.
The odds seem correct in Anaheim @ Tampa, Los Angeles @ Boston and Arizona @ New Jersey, so we move on.
Detroit isn’t a very good hockey team, but they haven’t played horribly to start the year. Their CF% is just under 50% at 5-on-5, and while they don’t generate a lot of scoring chances, they don’t give up a ton, either. In fact, their stats are pretty comparable to Florida — who is still the better team — but these odds are off and Detroit is good value on the road.
The Philadelphia Flyers are a bit of a head scratcher. They are middle of the road in possession and generating scoring chances but do a good job of limiting scoring chances. On Saturday night, the Flyers travel to Toronto to take on a team that is great at generating going forward but also gives up a lot of chances in their own end. This line is pretty close to being right, but the Flyers have a little bit of value at +130.
If Henrik Lundqvist was playing for the Rangers, they’d be a good shot at this number, but it’s hard to get involved in a game that features Ondrej Pavelec vs. Carey Price at that number.
One of the things with a sport that offers scheduling spots like the NHL is that we’ll occasionally get a nice discount on a team just because they’re on a back-to-back. That’s what we’ve got here, as the Preds are a good price against the perfectly average New York Islanders. As always, it is only fair to remind you that the author of this column is an Islanders fan. Smashville it is.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to another good start this year and are doing it by driving play, generating scoring chances and having a great goaltender. The Blues are also off to a good start despite not generating much going forward. Even with Columbus on the road, the wrong team is favored here. Jackets at that price, please.
The night’s penultimate game features two teams on night two of a back-to-back, and surprisingly, we are against our darling Colorado Avalanche here. I’ve got this one with Chicago around -130, so the value is there on the road favorite.
And finally, we conclude with Alex Ovechkin vs. Connor McDavid as the Washington Capitals visit the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Night in Canada. Even though the Oilers are off to a slow start results-wise, they have the best CF% and second-best expected goals differential in the league. The wins should start coming, and this is a good price.
Plays: San Jose -133, Detroit +141, Philadelphia +130, Nashville -124, Columbus +120, Chicago -117, Edmonton -129
(Season to date: 21-26, -1.57u)
[Photo: Perry Nelson, USA Today]