Ducks vs. Knights Odds & Picks: Trust Gibson to Keep Anaheim in the Game (Thursday, Jan. 14)
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Robin Lehner
- Coming off a disappointing season, the Ducks start their 2021 campaign in Sin City against the Vegas Golden Knights.
- Anaheim will hope John Gibson can contain a very strong Vegas attack, which keeps possession of the puck more than most NHL teams.
- Michael Leboff isn't a fan of the value books are putting on Vegas, so he explains when and how he'd bet the Ducks.
Ducks vs. Knights Odds
|Ducks Odds||+180 [BET NOW]|
|Knights Odds||-215 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||6 (-108 / -113) [BET NOW]|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
The Vegas Golden Knights enter the 2021 season as the consensus third-favorite to win the Stanley Cup, just behind Colorado and Tampa Bay.
The Anaheim Ducks are at the other end of the oddsboard and come in as one of the biggest longshots in the NHL at 70/1.
Needless to say, bookmakers expect Vegas will be able to handle Anaheim without too much fuss on Thursday night.
The Ducks are a flawed team, but they aren’t without hope thanks to the potential All-Star they have in the blue paint, John Gibson.
Gibson may be coming off a down season but prior to 2019/20, he was on the shortlist for best goaltender in the world. The Pittsburgh native led all goaltenders with a +59.76 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons.
Bad seasons can come out of nowhere for goaltenders and that’s what happened last time around, as Gibson allowed nearly 10 goals more than expected.
Some teams can survive pedestrian goaltending but for Anaheim to succeed, it needs Gibson to be playing at a near-star level. The Ducks just don’t have enough talent or depth to provide cover for Gibson if he’s off-kilter.
It’s a bit of a fool’s errand to try and project goaltending, but I think it’s a decent bet that Gibson bounces back in 2021. Bookmakers seem to agree as the 27-year-old is among the favorites to win the Vezina Trophy this season. Speaking of the Vezina, last year’s winner, Connor Hellebuyck, put up stellar numbers after a poor showing in 2018/19.
Gibson isn’t the only Ducks player in search of a resurgence in 2021. Anaheim’s once-promising core of defensemen — Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler and Josh Manson — spent last season treading water, though they were not helped out by a forward group that rated as one of the weakest in the NHL.
Fowler, Manson and Lindholm need not look far for inspiration. Their newest teammate, Kevin Shattenkirk, got a new lease on life with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019/20. After a disastrous stint with the Rangers, Shattenkirk rediscovered his game with the Bolts and if carries that form to Anaheim, he could provide a much needed spark for this blueline.
That will be a huge deal because the Ducks are a team that will need to win from the back to the front because Anaheim does not have much staying power at forward. Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Adam Henrique and Ryan Getzlaf are all still effective players, but none of them would be top-line players on a contender.
Those guys are backed up by some promising forwards like Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Comtois, but they’re going to be in for an uphill battle against the Golden Knights on Thursday.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights had a weird offseason. It was flashy and they improved, but the Knights kind of just consolidated strengths and never upgraded on their biggest needs.
A possession juggernaut, the Knights led the NHL with a +0.65 expected goal differential per 60 minutes (5-on-5) in 2019/20. Vegas generated a league-high 2.85 xG per 60 and were tied for eighth with a 2.2 xGA/60.
Despite a gaudy statistical profile, the Knights were barely above average with a +0.09 goal differential per hour. It was pretty clear to see what ailed the Knights — suspect goaltending and inconsistent finishing.
The goaltending seemed to be addressed when Vegas traded for (and eventually extended) Robin Lehner, but the finishing could still be an issue as the Golden Knights spent their offseason wooing Alex Pietrangelo rather than finding another scorer to round out a deep forward corps.
Pietrangelo, whose move to Sin City forced the Knights to ship out the steady Nate Schmidt, is an upgrade and solidifies an already fantastic blueline, but I’m not sure his arrival provides the answer to the biggest question in Vegas.
As part of their salary cap samba, the Knights also had to part ways with Paul Stastny, weakening their depth at center. Chandler Stephenson looked like he found a new gear when he joined Vegas, but a spine consisting of Stephenson, William Karlsson, Cody Glass and Tomas Nosek is a bit suspect for a team with high expectations.
That said, there are few teams that can match Vegas in terms of elite talent. Mark Stone is one of the most complete forwards in the NHL. Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore are both Norris Trophy candidates. And Robin Lehner has been one of the league’s top goaltenders two seasons in a row.
With elite players at every position and a tremendous supporting cast headlined by Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, there’s very few holes to poke in this roster.
This game projects as a mismatch and I’m not here to argue that. The Knights’ statistical profile was miles ahead of the Ducks in 2019/20 and it should be a similar story in 2021.
|5-on-5 Stat (2019/20)||Anaheim Ducks||Vegas Golden Knights|
|Goals per 60||2.22||2.58|
|Goals Against per 60||2.55||2.5|
|Expected Goals per 60||2.32||2.85|
|Expected Goals Against per 60||2.61||2.2|
Betting against the Knights is never a good time. They always have the puck and seemingly live in the offensive zone.
That said, you’d need Vegas to win this game nearly 70% of the time to start showing value on the Knights on Thursday night. That’s a bit rich for my blood — especially on opening night and against a goaltender like Gibson — so instead, I’ll keep an eye on Anaheim’s odds as the game gets closer.
I can’t imagine many bettors will be rushing to the window to bet Anaheim, so I think the best course of action on Thursday is to sit back and wait to see if the money piles up on Vegas as we get close to puck drop. Should that happen, I’d begrudgingly bet on the Ducks at +190 or better.
Pick: Anaheim Ducks +190 or better