Golden Knights vs. Avalanche Odds & Pick: Vegas Looks Cheap on Saturday
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nate Schmidt.
- Michael Leboff previews betting odds and makes his pick for Saturday's NHL matchup between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche.
- Las Vegas and Colorado report identical odds to win the Stanley Cup, but the Golden Knights are listed as cheap underdogs in their head-to-head matchup.
- With a juicy first-round matchup against the Blackhawks on the line, which team should you support on Saturday? Read on to find out.
Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche Odds
|Golden Knights Odds||-105 [BET NOW]|
|Avalanche Odds||-110 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 (-125/+104) [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 3 p.m. ET|
Only the Tampa Bay Lightning, who DraftKings has at +575 to win the Stanley Cup, have better odds than the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights. Fittingly, both Colorado and Vegas are +650 to take home the title.
Both teams are undefeated in round-robin play, having roundly dominated their opponents for long stretches of time. The prize of winning their matchup is sizable: a first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team with abjectly awful defense that will be trampled by either squad.
Las Vegas Golden Knights
I don’t know if the Golden Knights played the St. Louis Blues or a hologram, but the hologram theory seems possible considering St. Louis registered a zero expected goals percentage in the third period. Zero! Over three periods, Vegas outshot the Blues 22 to 10 at 5-on-5, and the only team that has a better expected goals percentage in the playoffs is Colorado by a nose.
In a game Vegas controlled thoroughly, two very different but important developments happened that should affect how one views their game against the Avalanche.
With Max Pacioretty still injured, Chandler Stephenson stayed as the left wing with William Karlsson and Mark Stone and that trio imposed its will on the Blues, notching two goals and an expected goals of 67.76%. In the game against Dallas, this line was split up despite a strong opening shift.
Against the Blues, they stayed together and were lethal. With the time of Pacioretty’s return murky, seeing Stone’s line thrive was reassuring.
The second notable event is that Vegas had an identity pivot: they demonstrated adaptability. After a ghastly turnover by Alex Tuch that led to the Blues’ Troy Brouwer depositing the puck into the empty net, the Golden Knights recalibrated their style of play.
They started clogging the neutral zone to impede the Blues’ rush. They were less reckless with their passes. They were scrupulous about having sufficient manpower back when the Blues initiated their transition.
It was the type of hockey DeBoer would be wise to stress when Vegas plays Colorado because it helps mitigate their primary dilemma: The Golden Knights’ goaltending has been a monstrosity.
Readers beware: The following is not for the faint of heart. Vegas’s team save percentage is .824. Against St. Louis, Marc-André Fleury recorded a -2.08 Goals Saves Above Expected (GSAx). As the kids say — or used to? — for Vegas’s goaltenders, the struggle is real.
As they stare down what is arguably the league’s premier transition offense, Vegas must throw sand in the gears of Colorado’s rush, but do so in a way that comports with their identity. The third period of Vegas’s game Thursday night against the Blues was a preview of that capability.
The neutral zone will determine this game. Colorado’s dynamic puck-handlers can carry the puck for 120 feet before placing it into the corner for one of their teammates to retrieve. If Vegas can strip the Avalanche skaters during this journey, it opens the door to counterattacks.
Even containing the Avs’ puck-handlers and demanding Colorado’s skaters travel a greater distance when forechecking would be fruitful. This game will be determined by advantages on the margins, and since Vegas has an excellent breakout, longer distance for retrievals is the kind of subtlety that could determine who wins and loses.
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.
Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are both spurring the Avs’ success, but their influence is felt in different ways.
Even though coach Jared Bednar deploys Landeskog for the toughest usage – he has the most defensive zone faceoffs and is usually pitted against the toughest opposing forwards – he leads the team in expected goals percentage through two contests.
Landeskog’s expected goals against per 60 minutes is .60, which underscores how much he affects play.
Landeskog’s command of play in all three zones, along with MacKinnon’s expected goals of 4.01 per hour explain why the Avs are crushing their opponents.
Opponents’ star forwards are swallowed up by Landeskog while MacKinnon wreaks havoc without consequences. Against Dallas, the MacKinnon line finished with a 1.12 expected goals and had 11 shots at 5-on-5.
Much like Blues coach Craig Berube, Stars coach Rick Bowness hoped he could impede the MacKinnon line by utilizing his shutdown line of Blake Comeau, Radek Faksa and Andrew Cogliano. This failed. Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer doesn’t really match forwards, but he will match defensemen.
MacKinnon will see a lot of Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb, who will present a formidable challenge. Despite facing opponents’ first lines, Schmidt and McNabb have a 62.14% expected goals.
Colorado is brandishing a ridiculous 60.04% expected goals, which is the best in the postseason and almost four percent higher than what Vegas posted in the regular season. Examine the Avalanche’s high-danger chances per 60 minutes and they don’t dazzle.
Rather, Colorado has consistently controlled the puck and peppered its opponent with shots. The Avs have the best shots for per hour of any team in the playoffs at 41.09. The Golden Knights, who rank fourth, are at 33.29. The extensive pressure the Avs are applying is forcing their opponents to take penalties and obstructing opponents’ scoring chances.
The Avs are converting at a healthy 30% clip on the power play, which actually could have been higher because Joonas Donskoi scored at even- strength right as a penalty was expiring against Dallas.
This adulation of the Avs’ offense should not overshadow the strength of their defense. They posted a 1.75 expected goals against per 60 minutes through two games, which during the regular season would have been the best in the league.
The Cale Makar-Ryan Graves duo is probably the most interesting pairing for its highs and lows. Makar has been an offensive terror through two games. He leads rushes up the ice; he is a playmaker and dangerous shooter.
Nevertheless, Makar and Graves are vulnerable defensively. In a game where they produced scant offense, Dallas Stars forward Denis Gurianov obtained the best opportunity for his team through a period and half when he caught these two Avalanche defensemen spread too far wide and attacked up the gut. Makar and Graves have the worst expected goals against on the team, and Vegas will need to find ways to exploit them.
Like in the Gurianov play, Vegas can compel them to defend in space by using the stretch pass. When they charge up the ice Vegas should trap them to force the Avs’ defensemen to cough up the puck.
Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) is an advanced statistic that measures a goaltender’s performance against the quality of scoring chances he faced. It is a better catch-all metric compared to save percentage because every SV% counts every saved shot and goal the same, while GSAx weights shots by the quality of the scoring chance.
GSAx numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
Editor’s Note: As of Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET, DraftKings now lists the Golden Knights at +107.
The Golden Knights are -105 on DraftKings, and since Colorado is -110, laying less money on Vegas spells opportunity. Vegas can match the Avalanche with talent and speed, and they have rarely taken penalties in a tightly officiated postseason.
Be that as it may, if the moneyline moves and the Avs become underdogs, bettors can feel comfortable with their money on the Avs knowing they have the goaltending advantage.
Furthermore, Bednar likely will use Landeskog to nullify the Stone line, which will have Vegas leaning on the Marchessault line and its complementary scoring to jet them to victory.