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With just one NHL on Saturday's schedule, handicapper Pete Truszkowski lets us know how he's playing it

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars

The underdog Dallas Stars shocked the Vegas Golden Knights by taking a 2-1 series lead on Thursday night, thanks to Alexander Radulov’s goal 31 seconds into overtime. Vegas was a prohibitive -240 favorite to win the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final, but Dallas is giving them all they can handle.

All three games in this series have gone under the total. However, there’s reason to believe that offense might be coming soon.

While games one and two were slower in pace and scoring chances, game three was a bit more wide open. The teams combined for just 2.44 expected goals at 5v5 in Game One. Game Two saw a bit of an increase, with the teams combining for 3.46 expected goals. Game Three saw the teams combine for 4.32 expected goals at even strength.

What does this mean? It simply means that the quality and quantity of higher danger chances is going up. This will almost always result in an increase in goals. What could stop this? Bad shooting luck and fantastic goaltending.

If you watched the final period of Game Three, you’d have noticed that there were moments that both Robin Lehner and Anton Khudobin showed visible discomfort. Both stayed in the game, so it’s hard to say that they are injured. However, as these teams are playing every other day for 6 weeks now, the bodies must be feeling it. Lehner didn’t look particularly sharp on the Stars overtime goal, so it’s something to monitor.

Moving our focus away from the total, you’d notice that Vegas is a substantial favorite to win Game Four. Early indications say that the sharp money is coming in on the favorite. Vegas has already moved from the -160 range to -170. When sharps are willing to lay this much juice, you have to take notice.

That being said, I don’t recommend ever laying that much juice in an NHL game. I don’t picture Vegas falling behind three games to one, but I think there’s a better way to attack this game without laying so much juice.

Vegas is shooting an incomprehensibly low 4.23% in these Western Conference Finals. That means Anton Khudobin is stopping over 95% of the shots he has faced. For comparison’s sake, the NHL average shooting percentage is near 9% while the average save percentage is closer to 91%. What does this mean? Vegas is getting extremely unlucky.

Vegas is not one of the worst shooting teams in the history of the sport. Anton Khudobin, while good, is not the best goalie of all time. Expectations and history say that Vegas will regress towards the mean and start scoring some goals.

Based on the way they are playing, that should be soon.

Not only is Vegas getting unlucky as a team, they have some big names who are just waiting to get going. Max Pacioretty was their leading scorer during the regular season, but he hasn’t scored in six games. Reilly Smith was second on the team in goals, but he hasn’t found glory in nine games. The third leading scorer was Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault’s shooting percentage in this postseason is just 5.8%. That’s a bit more than half of his 10.6% career average.

Vegas has been the better team in terms of puck possession and generating chances these last two games. They are due to start scoring more goals soon. They are big favorites to win the game in a series that I expect will start scoring more goals soon.

Their big guns are due to make an impact.

Let’s avoid the juice and pass on laying -170. Instead, let’s focus on the Golden Knights team total.

The NHL is a 3-2 league. That’s why most totals are 5.5 goals. They say if you score three goals, your team is in a decent position to win the game.

Let’s roll with the Vegas Golden Knights team total over 3 goals.

If Vegas wins, at worst, I expect them to score three times. They are due for an offensive explosion. Khudobin has played a lot of hockey here lately. There’s always the chance of an empty netter or two. I think Vegas rolls in Game Four and wins by a score of 5-2.

The Pick: Vegas Team Total Over 3 @ -114


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