Golden Knights vs. Canadiens Odds, Game 3 Preview, Prediction: Has Montreal Been Overlooked as Underdog All Series? (June 18)

Golden Knights vs. Canadiens Odds, Game 3 Preview, Prediction: Has Montreal Been Overlooked as Underdog All Series? (June 18) article feature image
Credit:

Sam Morris/Getty Images)Pictured: Tyler Toffoli #73, Erik Gustafsson #32 and Nick Suzuki #14 of the Montreal Canadiens.

  • The Vegas vs. Montreal series moves north of the border on Friday night for Game 3 with the series tied 1-1.
  • The Golden Knights were big favorites after beating Colorado in the previous round, but the Canadiens have shown enough to be worthy of more consideration.
  • Nicholas Martin explains, below, why Montreal has been in better form and should win Game 3.

Golden Knights vs. Canadiens Game 3 Odds

Golden Knights Odds -162
Canadiens Odds +140
Over/Under 5
Time Friday, 8 p.m. ET
TV USA
Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings

The Canadiens needed to claim at least one win in Vegas to shock the cup-favourite Knights and steal a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, and they managed to do so in Game 2, evening the series at one game a piece.

Can Vegas steal home ice right back in Game 3?

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Golden Knights Start Series Slow

Montreal came out very well again in Game 2 and was rewarded with a 2-0 lead after the first period behind tallies from Joel Armia and Tyler Toffoli. Paul Byron would make it 3-0 early in the second, affording a Montreal team that has been excellent so far as frontrunners this postseason two insurance markers to work with. They would need each of them, as Vegas did push hard throughout the remainder of the game on route to a 3-2 final.

The game continued a trend that the Golden Knights and coach Pete Deboer have seen quite enough of, as another poor start left Vegas in another hole early in the contest and ultimately proved too much to overcome.

With top line centre Chandler Stephenson out due to an upper-body injury, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty were out-chanced and out-played in a notable turn of events from what we have seen all playoffs long, specifically from Stone. The pair juggled between lines throughout the contest en route to an xGF% of 37.1 and 37.9 altogether.

While Stephenson certainly is not the star of the regular trio, the fact is he does slot into a very important role as the top line centre (or 1A/1B with the Knights also possessing William Karlsson’s excellent unit) which in a lot of situations is regarded as the most important slot on a team, specifically when reviewing former cup champions.

It sounds highly possible Stephenson may return for Game 3 and is certainly a storyline to watch.

The Knights altogether have not taken the play to Montreal as greatly as many may have expected, specifically after such an impressive victory over an Avalanche team that had been very reasonably pegged as the outright cup favourites.

Throughout the first two games Montreal lead in expected goals for 6.09 to 5.56, and in high danger chances for 28-21. Those numbers mean far from everything, and reviewing the Game 1 numbers specifically, I feel they are a little generous to the Habs. Similar to the Lightning vs. Islanders series, we sit with a very reasonable 1-1 series score, with the Canadiens probably opening the eyes of many doubters.

Vegas undoubtedly trended upwards last series, however, down 0-2 to the powerhouse Avs before winning four consecutive contests and controlling much of the play. The Knights will look to figure out the Habs in similar fashion as this series moves to Montreal.

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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 and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

People Shouldn’t Be Shocked By Canadiens’ Play

Many have been intrigued to see how Montreal would fare coming in as the winner of what was pegged by most as the weakest division. In my opinion, whether the Canadiens win this series or at least win several contests, it does not exactly settle that debate. I think that both things can clearly be true, as overall the North Division did hold a number of teams who likely would not have placed high in their regular divisions, but it can still produce a legit contender.

The parity in the NHL is at an all-time high right now, and I think that while the gap in division talent did exist, it is certainly more marginal than some perceived.

On top of that, Montreal has clearly trended upwards for a number of reasons. The Habs underachieved in the regular season, similar to the Islanders, and it certainly caused many to miss the true potential of the roster. The top-end talent up front may be lacking compared to some teams, but there is some excellent depth there, and even against Vegas’ ultra deep roster we are seeing that show.

Montreal finished with a 10th-ranked xGF% in the regular season, and fought through some important injuries at times. On top of that, Carey Price was certainly not in the form he has currently found, and the shortening of the rotation defensively was not in place as we are currently seeing.

Montreal received a crucial boost with the return of defender Jeff Petry to the lineup. The Canadiens have relied upon their top two defensive pairings greatly so far this postseason, as the two units have played over 80% of the total minutes so far. At 5-on-5 play Petry and partner Joel Edmundson skated to an xGF% of 70.4, with Petry also adding an assist in the contest.

Against Winnipeg the Habs truly relied upon Carey Price much less than most are seeming to believe, and I think to say that Montreal would likely still have won the series with Connor Hellebuyck (who is excellent in his own right) in their net instead of Price. The Canadiens did a tremendous job of limiting the Jets to a lot of lower-quality chances and clearly got the better of the play throughout the series. Vegas is a different animal, but I still believe that it has not been altogether shocking to see Montreal at least make a series of it.

Montreal will return home with a real chance to take a series lead, and I’m sure we will see an excellent contest in a pivotal Game 3.


Betting Analysis & Pick

By no means would it be surprising to see the powerhouse Knights push back and possibly handily take both contests in Montreal to claim a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Knights are justifiably priced as the outright favourites and on paper certainly hold a roster very worthy of being priced as such.

But based off of the play that we have seen so far in this series, I actually see more value here with backing Montreal to steal a series lead skating as +145 underdogs. It may take an excellent performance from Carey Price, but I think that Montreal has shown enough for me to feel that even against Vegas, the Habs can win a close and hard fought contest.

Pick: Montreal +145

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