NHL Odds, Picks & Predictions: Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Chicago Blackhawks Game 1 Preview (Tuesday August 11)
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Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks Odds
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|Golden Knights Odds||-200 [BET NOW]|
|Blackhawks Odds||+170 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||6.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||10:30 p.m. ET|
The Chicago Blackhawks did not expect to be in the NHL playoffs. If you need proof of that, all you need to do is take a look at the Vegas Golden Knights crease. Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner was traded to the Golden Knights at the trade deadline and will now most likely start in net against his former team in round one of the playoffs.
Chicago upset the Edmonton Oilers in four games despite entering the series as +155 underdogs. Now, they’re even bigger underdogs coming into this series against Vegas (+190 at BetMGM).
Vegas also looked impressive in its three wins in the round robin stage, securing the top seed in the Western Conference. Vegas’s biggest question mark coming into the playoffs was their goaltending and it seems like Robin Lehner has taken over the number one job from Marc-Andre Fleury.
Chicago came into the playoffs as the last place team in the league in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes. They held that honor in the first round of the postseason tournament as well.
The Blackhawks were also a bottom-five team in terms of expected-goals percentage during the regular season; only St. Louis was below them in the opening round. Chicago played three of its four games against Edmonton with an expected-goal rate of under 40%.
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 cited from Evolving Hockey.
Edmonton was a below-average puck possession team entering the postseason. So if the Oilers dominated Chicago to this level, it’s scary to think what Vegas can do to this Blackhawks team. The Golden Knights lead the NHL in expected goals percentage, Corsi-for percentage and scoring chances percentage.
Even in a series that saw Edmonton control most of the play, we saw what makes Chicago a captivating and interesting side that’s impossible to ignore.
Chicago is willing to compromise on defense to allow their dynamic forwards such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Dominik Kubalik and Alex DeBrincat play a more open style of hockey. Despite being a bottom-five team in terms of percentage of expected goals, they are a top half team in expected goals scored per 60 minutes.
When this strategy fails, Chicago relies on veteran backstop Corey Crawford. The numbers in the series were ugly for Crawford; a 3.75 goals against average and .891 save percentage. However, anyone who watched the deciding game of that series knows that Chicago should have lost that game and that Crawford made a collection of unreal saves, stopping 43 of 45 overall.
Game-breaking talent up front and a goaltender capable of standing on his head makes any team dangerous, and that’s exactly what the Blackhawks have.
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas’ Stanley Cup chances come down to which goaltender they elect to use. Marc-Andre Fleury was the first ever face of the franchise and led the expansion Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season in the league.
However, Fleury has been below-average this season and Vegas felt the need to acquire Lehner at the trade deadline. Lehner has been one of the best goalies in hockey these past two seasons and the Golden Knights need to realize he gives them the best chance to win games.
The Golden Knights dominate the peripheral stats. They have the highest percentage of expected goals in the league. Vegas has the highest rate per 60 minutes of expected goals scored and they are a top ten team in expected goals against. They lead the league in shot attempt percentage as well as scoring chances percentage. Unfortunately, they are a distant second place in high danger chances percentage.
In addition to this, Vegas received some great news over the past few days after Max Pacioretty entered the Edmonton bubble. He’s expected to be cleared to play in this game and he adds dynamic offensive talent to the wing for this team. Pacioretty scored 32 goals for this team in 71 games this season.
Vegas will control play in this series. They control play in almost every game they play. Their two main concerns this season have been their ability to make saves as well as their ability to score goals. The additions of Pacioretty and Lehner should go a long way in helping out those issues.
Vegas comes in as a -200 favorite (Bet365) while the Blackhawks are a sizable +170 underdog.
At -200, it’s implied that Vegas has a 66.7% chance of winning this game. I’m not one to speak in absolutes, but it’s very rare a percentage that high is accurate in hockey. In a sport that’s very dependent on luck, bounces, variance and fickle goaltending, each game is way more of a toss-up than we’d like to admit.
This is before even factoring in the whole playing in a bubble with no fans during a global pandemic thing, by the way.
Chicago is definitely the side with the value here. Do I love making this bet? No, of course not. On paper Vegas steamrolls this team that shouldn’t even be here. But for one game of August hockey in these bizarre circumstances, you have to take the dog or look at another avenue to bet on this game. I think Chicago is the right side to play at anything above +160.
Steve mentioned the first period total in our NHL best bets article this morning. I agree with his logic here. My favorite play is a derivative off of his play.
When you combine the expectation of Vegas to win the game and a high scoring first period, I personally like Vegas’ team total over one goal in the first period. You can bet this at +115 over at DraftKings.
Edmonton scored at least one goal in every first period against Chicago. Twice they scored in the first minute. The latest the Blackhawks allowed a goal was 9:42 into the game. Slow starts and spending a lot of time in your zone seems to be Chicago’s gameplan.
I feel really good about the Golden Knights getting at least one goal in the first period. At that point, you guarantee yourself at least a push and you basically have a free-roll at plus-money.