Wild vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Odds & Betting Preview: Where Value Lies in Playoff Opener (May 16)

Wild vs.  Golden Knights Game 1 Odds & Betting Preview: Where Value Lies in Playoff Opener (May 16) article feature image
Credit:

Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Kirill Kaprizov.

  • The Minnesota Wild head to Sin City to start a playoff series vs. the Golden Knights on Sunday.
  • Vegas is among the most talented teams in the NHL and is favored heavily in Game 1, although Minnesota held its own against the Knights during the season.
  • Matt Russell breaks down where he sees betting value in Game 1 of the series below.

Wild vs. Golden Knights Odds

Wild Odds +155
Golden Knights Odds -180
Over/Under 5.5
Time Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
TV NBC
Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings

The Vegas Golden Knights are everyone’s second-favorite team. They’re located in everyone’s second favorite city and in their four short years of existence, they’ve never disappointed anyone by getting upset early in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, nor have they played the role of villain by winning the whole thing.

After a surprise run to the Final in their expansion season that stoked the imagination of everyone, they’ve gone just far enough before getting eliminated to keep everyone on their good side.

As one of a cluster of teams atop the oddsboard for the Stanley Cup, there’s an expectation for another potential deep run. More tantalizingly for hockey fans, a meeting in the second round with Stanley Cup-favorite Colorado would be must-see TV. For many, that meeting is an inevitability, but as we look at Game 1 and the Knights’ series against the Minnesota Wild as a whole, that assumption might be a mistake.

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Vegas Is Built for the Playoffs, but Minnesota Matches up Well

The Golden Knights have a deep roster built on the advantages they got when they took advantage of the NHL’s miscues in their expansion draft process. They’ve been able to sign affordable contracts for better than average role players on other teams like Shea Theodore, William Karlson and Jonathan Marchessault, which has allowed them to make bigger moves for the veteran all-stars Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Alex Pietrangelo.

Throw in a ton of draft picks, and you get one of the deepest teams in the league. Vegas’ consistently good playoff performances means its roster has become familiar to even casual hockey fans.

The Minnesota Wild, on the other hand, live in an annual state of anonymity. Even though they play in the “The State of Hockey.”

Quick, name me five players on the Wild. One reason you might not be quick with the Minnesota roster is that their most electric player, Kirill Kaprizov, is literally new. The presumptive Rookie of the Year Award winner led the Wild in scoring this season. Minnesota’s next highest scorers were Kevin Fiala, Mats Zuccarello and Jordan Greenway. Not exactly household names. Their biggest name, Zach Parise, has seen his production fall off.

The name-recognition and branding between the two teams has resulted in the Golden Knights being favored in this series, with the opening price set at VGK -255/MIN +215. However, if we look closer at some of the relevant stats and metrics for these two teams, it turns out there’s not much separating the two teams

Stat Minnesota Wild Vegas Golden Knights
High-Danger Chances For 5v5 451 539
High-Danger Chances Against 5v5 363 469
High-Danger Conversion Rate 5v5 15.4% 12.8%
High-Danger Goals 5v5 70 69
Expected Goals Share 5v5 51.2% 53.3%
Power Play % 17.6% 17.8%
Penalty Kill % 80.8% 86.8%
Starting Goaltender GSAA/60 min. +0.21 +0.56

Essentially, the Wild have actually been better at taking advantage of the offensive chances that they create, making up for the fact that they don’t create as many as the Golden Knights do. On top of that, Minnesota allows over 100 more High-Danger Chances at even-strength than Vegas allowed to their opponents. Also, given the high-end talent on Vegas’ roster, you’d think their power play would be a force to be reckoned with, but that hasn’t been the case either — they were only slightly more efficient than the Wild.

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.

Perhaps even more telling, regarding the two teams’ relative equality is in the metrics for their eight matchups this season. During 5-on-5 play, the Wild accumulated 16.42 expected goals to the Golden Knights’ 14.13. Minnesota also created 71 High-Danger Chances to 55 for Vegas. Each of these games came on or after March 1, so we’ve got a pretty up-to-date sample size.

The reason the Wild didn’t contend for first place in the division is because they struggled against both Colorado and St. Louis, going 5-11 in matchups with the other two playoff teams in the West Division. Those two teams battle it out in a first round series of their own, so the Wild won’t have to worry about them until the next round.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on “THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast,” makes the Golden Knights the favorite in this series but not by much. Whether it’s the series price that has already been bet down to +200, or game-to-game, the value lies with the Wild who have shown they can play stride for stride with Vegas.

Even with the home-ice adjustment in favor of Vegas for Game 1, I have this game priced at a 54% win probability for the Golden Knights, and 46% for the Wild.

In our Stanley Cup Playoff preview column, I gave out the Wild as my best underdog bet to advance. In Game 1, they sit at +150 on the moneyline, which is an implied win probability of 40% leaving us a 6% edge in backing Minnesota.

Given that I like them as a value play to win the series, it should be no surprise that I think they can take game one of the series. If that ends up being the case, we’ll likely see the value on the Wild shrink over the course of the rest of the series, so it’s always advisable to get in early if you see a spot to buy low on a team as underrated as the Wild are.

Unfortunately, that means that the Golden Knights may have to finally suffer the same fate that every other NHL franchise eventually does — the black mark of an early exit, which would be Vegas’ first on an otherwise stellar playoff resume in their young existence.

Pick: Wild +155 (+140 or better)

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