Just five weeks remain in the NHL regular season, and the push for the playoffs and positioning is in full stride. The Vegas Golden Knights had their eight game winning streak snapped March 1 in a 4-1 loss to the last place Los Angeles Kings. Vegas was a -350 favorite at 5Dimes, and the Kings cashed in as +290 underdog as LA goalie Calvin Peterson had a season-high 42 saves. Last week, the Golden Knights became the Western Conference favorite to reach the Stanley Cup at many leading online sportsbooks. However, William Hill also made the Golden Knights the Stanley Cup favorite (+450).
My recent update at Forbes includes Stanley Cup odds on teams in the playoff chase, how oddsmakers set lines and futures and my night on press row and in the Golden Knights locker room following a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers last week. Plus trade information updates and insight on the Golden Knights and Oilers with information you can bet on.
The Golden Knights (36-23 plus eight OT/SO losses) have 80 points while the Oilers (76 points), Canucks (74 points), Flames (73 points) and Coyotes (72 points) chase in the Pacific division. However, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues (88 points), Colorado Avalanche (85 points) and Dallas Stars (81 pointss) are in front of Vegas and getting solid goaltending.
Hockey is the most luck driven sport, and goaltending plays a huge part in outcomes. During Vegas' 8-game winning streak, the Knights beat seven playoff teams at home including the Blues, Islanders, Capitals, Lightning, Panthers, Oilers and Sabers. Yet the winning streak was snapped as a huge home favorite over the Kings as LA's goalie was hot. That's hockey, and teams lacking in quality goaltending will not win the Stanley Cup or make a deep playoff run. Recall last season when the St.Louis Blues were 250-1 to win the Stanley Cup in January, and then went on a remarkable run on their way to the Stanley Cup title behind goalie Jordan Binnington (24-5, 1.89 GAA).
When evaluating NHL playoff teams and those capable of making a late season run, recognize scheduling down the stretch and teams built for success in the playoffs that also have quality goaltending. Recall also that last year's Tampa Bay Lightning had the best record in the NHL and were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference before getting swept four straight games in the playoffs by No. 8 seed Columbus.
Stanley Cup odds for playoff contenders as of March 1:
|Team||BetOnline||My Bookie||William Hill||BetDSI|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+600||+550||+500||+500|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+800||+700||+450||+500|
|St. Louis Blues||+1200||+800||+800||+850|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1600||+4000||+1700||+1750|
|New York Islanders||+3300||+2200||+3500||+2800|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+8000||+3500||+5000||+7000|
Prior to Vegas' 8-game winning streak, I made my biggest bet of the NHL season on the Minnesota Wild (+130) as a home underdog over Vegas. The Wild shutout the Golden Knights 4-0, and my colleague and sharp bettor and NHL handicapper Sherwood provided insight on the very difficult scheduling and situation facing Vegas that night.
Not only are the Wild completely undervalued, this is as good a situational spot as any we’ve seen all season long, thus making this underdog a very live one. It may surprise you to learn that the Wild have allowed the fewest High Danger Scoring Chances in the entire league over the past two months and rank number one in overall scoring chances allowed as well over that same time frame. The Wild are also an impressive 16-8-4 at home. That’s the tale of the tape regarding the Wild but this one is all about fading the Knights.
Vegas just came off an absolutely exhausting eight-game road trip that started on January 14th and ended on February 6th. They returned home to play Carolina on Saturday and dropped a 6-5 OT decision. The schedule makers did the Knights no favors here by scheduling a one-game road trip to Minnesota right after they just got back home. That’s cruel! Right after this game in frigid Minnesota, the Knights will host the Stanley Cup Blues on Thursday night. We seriously have to question what is going to motivate the Knights here? Big overlay.
Just over a week later, I fired another good bet on the Vancouver Canucks (+130) as a home 'Dog against Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins. The Canucks buried the Bruins 9-3 as Boston was playing the third leg of the tough Western Canada road trip and back-to-back nights. That same scheduling situation will face Vegas two times over their final 15 games, and I'll outline the playoff and contending teams schedules and other information you can bet on tomorrow as the push towards the NHL playoffs continues.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay