Knights-Jets: Did The Box Score Lie To Us In Game 3?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Box scores can be very misleading.
On Wednesday night the Golden Knights defeated the Jets, 4-2, to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals. Before that game I noted that neither team should have a gripe with the split in Games 1 and 2, but the same can’t really be said for Game 3.
Paying for Mistakes
The Golden Knights succeed by forcing their opponents to abandon script. They pressure and annoy you until you make a mistake. Then they hope that mistake lands on the stick of Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal or William Karlsson and that they can make you pay for said mistake.
That strategy paid immediate dividends in Game 3. Just 35 seconds into the game, Mark Scheifele turned the puck over at the Knights’ blue line. It ended up on Brayden McNabb’s stick, and he tossed a blind pass into the neutral zone that ended up on Marchessault’s stick. Just like that it was 1-0 Vegas.
To the Knights’ credit, Vegas did have the better of play in the first period, and Winnipeg was fortunate it wasn’t 2-0.
After a lucky goal by Winnipeg tied things up, Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck handed the lead right back to Vegas 12 seconds later by misplaying a puck behind the net. Two minutes later, Nate Schmidt batted down a failed chip-in by Kyle Connor at the Knights’ blue line and hit Neal with an outlet pass that cut through the neutral zone and led to an Alex Tuch goal. Just when it looked like Winnipeg was getting a foot in the door, Vegas punished the Jets for their mistakes.
The third period, however, gave us a really good look at just how dominant the Jets can be. Eighteen seconds into the period, Scheifele converted a great feed from Connor to bring the Jets within a goal. From that point on, Vegas held on for dear life.
Thanks in part to some miraculous stops from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas was able to secure a 4-2 victory, but Winnipeg’s peripheral numbers were much stronger than the Knights’. The Jets generated 3.95 expected goals (xG) at 5-on-5 (adjusted for score + venue) compared to Vegas’ 2.38.
According to the Action App, Vegas closed as a -131 favorite in Game 3 and attracted 62% of the tickets. Even though they won that game, the Knights opened at -125 for Game 4. If we just focus on Pinnacle — widely considered the sharpest sportsbook around — the Knights closed -129 for Game 3 and opened -121 for Game 4. It’s not a huge disparity, but it definitely tells you something immediately after a Knights win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see recreational bettors eat up Vegas in Game 4 while the bigger bets come in on Winnipeg. — Michael Leboff
Road teams in Vegas with two or more days between games have gone 8-28 straight-up this season. Since it’s the playoffs, you’d think the Jets would avoid the Vegas flu, but you never know. Road teams are just 1-5 straight-up this postseason, being outscored by two goals in the Sin City. — John Ewing
As John noted, road teams have struggled mightily in Vegas this season on two or more days’ rest. This season, including the playoffs, road teams in that situation have lost bettors 15.2 units; Vegas is the second-least profitable team to bet against in that scenario, The least profitable? The Winnipeg Jets, who have lost bettors 16.5 units.
Hellebuyck has allowed seven goals in his last two losses against Vegas. In his career, Hellebuyck has started 46 games coming off allowing at least three goals in consecutive games. The Jets are 30-16 in those games, winning by 0.9 goals per game and profiting bettors 11.1 units. This season, Hellebuyck and the Jets are 12-4 in this situation, winning by 1.7 goals per game (but 0-1 in the playoffs vs. Nashville). — Evan Abrams