Sunday NHL Odds & Pick for Golden Knights vs. Coyotes: Back Vegas to Rebound With Victory (Jan. 24)
Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Cody Glass (left) and Mark Stone.
- The Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights face off Sunday in the final game of their four-game series.
- The Coyotes have looked like the better team so far in this series, but Sam Hitchcock sees value on Vegas in this contest.
- Check out his preview and his betting pick below.
Golden Knights vs. Coyotes Odds
|Golden Knights Odds||-1.5|
|Moneyline||-180 / +155|
|Time||4 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Saturday night and via DraftKings.|
Raise your hand if you imagined the Arizona Coyotes would look like the better team through three of four games against the Vegas Golden Knights in their regular-season mini-series. Me neither.
The surprises began with Arizona stifling Vegas’ high-powered offense at 5-on-5. Last season, the Golden Knights’ cavalry led the NHL with 2.72 expected goals per 60 minutes. In their three games against Arizona, they have registered a 2.13.
After barely winning two home games that were pocked with lassitude, the Golden Knights were felled 5-2 in Arizona on Friday. It was Vegas’ first loss of the season.
As impressive as Arizona has looked, I am willing to bite my nails and tender a 60-minute line recommendation on DraftKings for the Golden Knights at -109. After three straight games where the more talented, deeper team got outplayed by its plucky-but-flawed adversary, I think the Golden Knights will be fastidious with the details on Sunday afternoon and clean up a litany of errors.
Vegas Golden Knights
If you are only looking at the box scores, you would think that Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore has been unstoppable in this series. Three goals and two assists in a trio of games are eye-popping numbers. Theodore has been explosive offensively, a lodestar for his stymied forwards. But my goodness, he has struggled mightily defensively.
Against Arizona, Theodore has a 42.97 expected goals percentage. It gets worse. Vegas has a rate of 37.18 shots against per hour when Theodore is on the ice, which is brutal. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer may want to consider sheltering Theodore, which means matching him up against the Coyotes’ bottom-six forwards, albeit that is more difficult with Arizona having the last change.
The Coyotes’ top-six forwards torched Theodore on Friday night, with the coup de grâce goal coming when both Theodore and Alec Martinez completely missed Conor Garland zooming down the weak side.
Even though it lost the first two games, on Monday and Wednesday, Arizona effectively neutralized Vegas’ neutral-zone ambitions. On stretch passes, the Coyotes’ defensemen were able to step up and choke off the Golden Knights’ transition offense. On Friday, the Golden Knights found more traction on their long passes, which sprung some opportunities off the rush. And yet, Vegas lost on Friday because of wayward defensive coverage and poor puck management. The antidote for both of these maladies is more offensive zone time through the forecheck.
Even if Vegas doesn’t get immediate gratification off the forecheck, like they did on the Reilly Smith goal last Monday, accentuating the forecheck catalyzes other propitious things for the Golden Knights. It allows Vegas to have more faceoff plays, from which they have derived several goal opportunities, and also feature their defensemen as dangerous scoring creators from the blue line.
The Golden Knights will win on Sunday if they slow the game down and keep the puck below Arizona’s circles. Even if it means embracing a Fabian strategy, the Golden Knights can force the Coyotes to chase them around the offensive zone, impairing Arizona’s counterattack and avoiding time trying to exit their own zone. It’s a less risky way of playing, but after three games, it is evident that a track meet still isn’t advisable.
The big story for Arizona is goaltender Darcy Kuemper. With Antti Raanta still injured and unavailable for Sunday, do the Coyotes dare start Kuemper for a fourth game in a row this week — or do they give the nod to third-string goaltender Adin Hill?
In the three games against Vegas, Kuemper has proffered a -0.35 Goals Saved Above Expected. Considering he had the second best GSAx at 8.71 last season, he hasn’t been quite as sharp as Arizona would hope. Vegas has managed to challenge Kuemper by getting a lot of traffic in front of him. If the Coyotes can box out and keep the area around the crease tidy, they can win a low-scoring game simply by Kuemper buoying them.
As speedy and dynamic as Arizona has looked, there is a terrifying possibility that the Garland-Nick Schmaltz duo has a flat effort and the offense sputters. Considering the Coyotes have been receiving zero scoring from their defensemen, could they survive a muted effort from Garland and Schmaltz?
In the first three games of this matchup, the Garland and Schmaltz line has been a wellspring of offense, tallying 15 shots at 5-on-5. The only game when it did not lead the team in 5-on-5 shots was Friday’s, when the Clayton Keller line eked out six. Still, the Garland line accounted for two of the three 5-on-5 goals.
So, what if Deboer tries to match the Max Pacioretty line against them? Pacioretty is arguably the Golden Knights’ best forward, and in this series, he has a 54.52 expected goals percentage. But he has rarely seen time against Garland and Schmaltz. The Golden Knights are without the last change and one line has been wreaking havoc on them. Deboer needs to have a strategy to mitigate the impact of the Coyotes’ forwards. Having them chase the puck in their own end seems like a logical answer.
Golden Knights-Coyotes Pick
If the Coyotes submit another competitive performance, they immediately become a team worth watching because we will have a four-game sample size of them going toe-to-toe with one of the league’s premier teams and more than standing their ground. Considering the moneyline for them in this game is +155, they are evidently undervalued. When they play weaker teams in their division, they may excel.
However, Vegas has not played a complete game against the Coyotes yet. In the third contest, they finally got burned for their lackluster play. Coming off a loss, they will have plenty of mojo, and I am compelled to pick the team with more elite skill and roster talent.
If the Golden Knights slow the pace down and grind at the Coyotes’ defensive corps, they could pull out a multi-goal win. For that reason, I implore bettors to take the 60-minute line for Vegas at -109 on DraftKings. Sin City tempts.
Pick: Vegas 60-minute line (-109)