Sunday NHL Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks Game 1 Preview (Aug. 23)
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images. Pictured: Jacob Markstrom, Jay Beagle, and J.T. Miller.
Knights vs. Canucks Odds
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|Golden Knights Odds||-182 [BET NOW]|
|Canucks Odds||+155 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||6 (+100/-122) [BET NOW]|
|Time||10:30 p.m. ET|
The Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights are on a collision course to meet in the Western Conference Finals — if you believe all of the predictions and experts out there. However, on Saturday night the Dallas Stars defeated Colorado to throw a potential wrench in those plans. Will Vancouver send a similar message to the Golden Knights on Sunday?
Vancouver enters the series with plenty of momentum after eliminating the defending champion St. Louis Blues in six games during the first round. On the other side, Vegas made quick work of the Chicago Blackhawks, eliminating them in five.
The oddsmakers have predictably made Vegas a huge favorite to win this game and series, but are they underestimating the Canucks?
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Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas might have looked a little too perfect on paper, so it had to create some off-ice drama involving its backup goaltender and his agent the day before kicking off round two of its playoff run.
For those unaware, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was selected by Vegas in the expansion draft and immediately became the face of the franchise, leading the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. He performed at an elite level until this past season. His goaltending was costing the team points, so Vegas acquired Robin Lehner from Chicago at the deadline. Lehner has started all but one playoff game for the Golden Knights.
On Saturday afternoon, Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, posted a very clear and pointed image on his Twitter account accusing Vegas coach Peter DeBoer of stabbing his client in the back. The team is said to have talked to Fleury about the image and is confident it won’t be a distraction, but we’ll see.
Returning to things that actually occur on the ice, Vegas might be the best team in the league. In the regular season, the Knights were a top-two team in shot attempts, high-danger chances, scoring chances, and expected goals.
In the first round of these playoffs, they led the league with a 66.04% expected goal percentage. They dominated at both ends of the ice, finishing first in terms of expected goals scored per 60 minutes and third in expected goals allowed per 60 minutes.
The Golden Knights top line of Mark Stone, William Karlsson, and Max Pacioretty might not have lit up the scoreboard against Chicago, but when on the ice together, Vegas had over 70% of the expected goals. The points will come from the trio if it continues to spend its shifts almost exclusively on the attack.
Vegas received a similarly dominant performance from its top pairing on defense, which features Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez. They both played nearly 100 minutes at even strength during the series while tilting the ice severely toward Vegas’ offensive zone. The Golden Knights will look to deploy this pair against the Elias Pettersson unit of the Canucks, which is sure to be a test for the duo.
Vancouver is probably the most surprising team still alive in the postseason. Six of the eight teams were top-four seeded teams who participated in the round robin. The other team is the New York Islanders, who advanced to the second round last year as well, meaning their presence isn’t too surprising.
However, Vancouver is making its first playoff appearance since 2015 and has knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champs to get here. Nobody expected it to be here, and nobody expects it to get any further than this round. The oddsmakers agree, as the Canucks find themselves as the biggest underdog to win the Stanley Cup at 19-1 (DraftKings).
How have the Canucks achieved their success?
Well, Vancouver has not dominated the play as Vegas has. During the regular season, the Canucks were a bottom-10 team in the league in terms of expected goals. That has carried over to the postseason. In the first round, they were the second-worst team that advanced in terms of expected goals, outperforming only the Philadelphia Flyers.
The No. 1 reason for the Canucks’ success has to be goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom was snubbed of a Vezina Trophy nomination, but he hasn’t let that affect his performance. Markstrom holds a .929 save percentage through 10 games of the postseason and in terms of goals saved above expectation, his 5.5 is best amongst non-eliminated goalies.
Vancouver is not a defensive juggernaut. It was a bottom-five team in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes during the regular season. In these playoffs, it’s the second-worst among remaining teams in that category. Markstrom consistently bails the Canucks out, and it’s no surprise he’s the main catalyst behind them advancing through this tournament.
Vancouver’s high-end talent is up there with some of the league’s best. Pettersson has quickly developed into one of the most valuable players in the sport, and he has 13 points in 10 playoff games. Both J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes have also contributed a point per game during this run, while Brock Boeser and captain Bo Horvat have added eight points.
This collection of elite talent leads Vancouver to own one of the best power plays in the league. It had a top-five power play during the regular season and has scored on over 26% of its opportunities in this postseason thus far. Special teams are always a big equalizer for teams that might have trouble driving the play at even strength, and Vancouver is a prime example of that.
Elite goaltending, elite high-end skill, and an explosive power play is the engine that drives this Vancouver team. The Canucks have used this combination to outperform their underlying metrics throughout the regular season and now during this postseason. Now that they are running into Vegas, the cream of the crop in terms of shot attempts and shot quality, it’ll be interesting to see if this strategy can work.
I think it’s important to analyze what we saw transpire in Game 1 of the series between Dallas and Colorado on Saturday night. I think we can draw some parallels from those teams to the squads in this game.
Dallas just eliminated a very solid Calgary team in a hard-fought and relatively even series that required total focus and commitment from everyone on the team. I think the same can be said about Vancouver defeating the St. Louis Blues.
Meanwhile, Colorado coasted its way through an Arizona team that wouldn’t have made the playoffs in a normal season and aren’t in the same stratosphere in terms of skill, depth, structure, talent, or basically anything except goaltending. I think similar things can be said about Vegas taking care of Chicago.
We saw Dallas come out and take an early 3-1 lead in Game 1, holding Colorado off and winning the game as a rather large +150 underdog. As the team that has played closer and more intense games against real playoff teams, it’s not surprising that Dallas came out with more intensity than a team that hasn’t been challenged the same way.
I can see a scenario in which Vancouver has the legs early while it takes Vegas a period to adjust to playing a higher quality opponent. In addition to the impact this might have on the game, Jacob Markstrom is the type of goalie who can easily keep his team in it.
Vancouver has the high-end talent that can score off the rush and on the counter-attack. The +160 moneyline (DraftKings) gives Vancouver a 38.4% chance of winning game one. I do think Vegas is clearly the better team and deserves to be significant favorites, but this is a bit too high.
I would bet Vancouver to win this game at the current price and feel the value is present at anything over +155.