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Canadiens vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Odds, Preview: Montreal Opens Semifinal Series as Big Underdog (Monday, June 14)

Canadiens vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Odds, Preview: Montreal Opens Semifinal Series as Big Underdog (Monday, June 14) article feature image

David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Carey Price.

  • The Canadiens finally head south of the border to take on the Golden Knights in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series.
  • Montreal has won seven straight games, while Vegas took down the mighty Avalanche attack in the West Division.
  • Carol Schram breaks down whether bettors should back the Habs as a big underdog below.

Canadiens vs. Golden Knights Odds

Canadiens Odds +230
Golden Knights Odds -260
Over/Under 5.5
Time Monday, 9 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday and via William Hill

The Vegas Golden Knights and the Montreal Canadiens are both red hot coming into their Stanley Cup semifinal matchup. But only one club can prevail.

The Golden Knights tied the Colorado Avalanche with a league-leading 82 points in the regular season, equivalent to a 120-point pace in a normal campaign. Vegas had to go to seven games to get out of the first round against a tough, determined Minnesota Wild team, then dropped its first two contests against the Avs before dialing in the stifling defense that neutralized the highest-scoring team in the NHL.

Up north, the Canadiens developed their own defensive game plan to erase a 3-1 deficit in their first-round series against the high-powered (and highly favored) Toronto Maple Leafs. Montreal’s confidence continued to build as it swept the Winnipeg Jets in Round 2, barely breaking a sweat.

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Canadiens Riding Price, Strong Depth

The narrative of the Canadiens’ playoff success is built around four strong lines and an effective defensive system. But the Canadiens wouldn’t be the North Division champions without otherworldly Carey Price in net. He goes into the semifinals leading all playoff netminders with a .935 save percentage. Considering he was at .936 last year against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, it’s no fluke.

Like the regular season, the Canadiens’ offense has been led by Tyler Toffoli, whose 10 points in 11 games include two game-winning goals against the Jets. But Montreal has been getting goals from up and down the lineup, and the fourth line of Corey Perry, Eric Staal and Joel Armia has been especially dangerous.

On the defensive side of the puck, center Phillip Danault is renowned for his work as a shutdown specialist, but got plenty of help from his teammates against Toronto and Winnipeg. One place to watch is on the back end, where Jeff Petry suffered a finger injury in Game 3 against the Jets.

Petry will be missed if he’s out for any period of time, but John Lu of TSN reported that he resumed skating on Sunday. Coach Dominique Ducharme stopped short of ruling him out for Game 1.

All told, the Canadiens are clear underdogs in this series, but don’t count them out. They play with good structure, are more rested than the Golden Knights, and oozing confidence after knocking off the top two teams in the North.

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

Vegas Proving To Be Perennial Playoff Power

Against Colorado, Mark Stone cemented his status as one of the top defensive forwards in hockey — a winger who’s a worthy finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is almost exclusively awarded to centers.

Stone almost single-handedly neutralized Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon, limiting him to just three assists in the final five games of the series as the Golden Knights took control.

Against Montreal, however, Stone’s matchup target won’t be so easily defined. The Canadiens play a team game that more closely resembles Minnesota, which gave Vegas fits during the regular season and pushed it to the brink in Round 1.

Looking at the underlying numbers, Vegas comes out ahead on both sides of the puck. The original Golden Misfits (Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith) have turned back the clock to 2018; newer additions like Max Pacioretty and Mattias Janmark have contributed in big moments; and on the blue line, Alex Pietrangelo is finding his game at just the right time, leading a big, strong defense corps that includes sneaky-good Shea Theodore and shot-blocking machine Alec Martinez.

Then, there’s Marc-Andre Fleury. Thought to be on his way to a new home after Robin Lehner took over the Vegas net in the 2020 playoffs, the 36-year-old has turned back the clock. With a .928 save percentage, Fleury combined with Lehner to win the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in the regular season. In the playoffs, he’s at .923. That’s on par with his Stanley Cup-winning run with Pittsburgh in 2017 (.924) and his first year in Vegas (.928).

The Canadiens have history behind them, as the NHL’s all-time winningest franchise with 24 Stanley Cups. But the Golden Knights have proven that their electric inaugural season was no fluke. The team and its deafening fanbase have made it clear that they won’t settle for anything less than a championship.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Playoff Stats Golden Knights Canadiens
Goals For per 60 minutes (5-on-5) 2.81 1.75
Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5) 1.99 1.75
Goal Differential per 60 (5-on-5) +0.82 even
Expected Goals per 60 (5-on-5) 2.44 2.26
Expected Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5) 1.86 2.26
Expected Goal Differential per 60 (5-on-5) +0.58 even
High-Danger Scoring Chances per 60 (5-on-5) 11.05 9.65
High-Danger Scoring Chances Allowed per 60 (5-on-5) 9.06 9.43
Power Play % 14.3% 18.8%
Penalty Kill % 71.4% 90.3%
Expected Save Percentage 93.63% 94%
Save Percentage (starting goalie) .923 .935
Goals Saved Above Expectation (starting goalie) 4.7 8.6

Finishing 23 points above the Canadiens in the regular-season standings, it’s understandable that the oddsmakers like Vegas in this series. With the top seeds from all four divisions now eliminated from the playoffs, the Golden Knights are the closest thing to a favorite that’s still alive.

But while Vegas’ four-straight wins over the Avalanche were impressive, Montreal is riding a seven-game winning streak into this series. For what it’s worth, in their very limited head-to-head history, the Canadiens have a 5-1-0 record all-time against Vegas in the regular season.

Montreal also has an X-Factor in Perry, who was a key part of the Dallas Stars team that easily took out Vegas in five games in the bubble last year.

The line of +230 suggests that the Canadiens would win Game 1 just over 30% of the time. Considering the potential payout, it’s not unreasonable to think that Monday could be one of those times.

Playing in a full arena for the first time in 15 months, the better-rested Canadiens will need to tap into the crowd’s emotions rather than being overwhelmed. Assuming calm, cool and collected Carey Price keeps doing Carey Price things, I’d consider backing the Canadiens to steal Game 1, down to +200.

Pick: Canadiens +230 (play down to +200)

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