Canadiens vs. Golden Knights - Game 1 NHL Picks
Following on from the Islanders 2-1 victory over the Lightning yesterday we're back with more Game 1 NHL action this Monday.
Series tied 0-0.
The Vegas Golden Knights were impressive in dispatching the favorites to win the Stanley Cup in the Colorado Avalanche after falling behind 2-0 in that series. Not to be outdone, the Montreal Canadiens have shocked the hockey world by coming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs and then sweeping the Winnipeg Jets.
Despite Montreal’s impressive Cinderella-run, the oddsmakers are not buying it. Vegas is -265 favorites to win game one and -500 (!!!) favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Vegas was the league’s second best team during the regular season and just eliminated the league’s best team. They were top ten in most possession rates and shot quality analytics during the regular season.
On the flip side, Montreal played in the all-Canadian North Division. Consensus opinion is that this division was far and away the worst division in hockey this season, and based on what we’ve seen in these playoffs, it’s hard to argue. Watching the Vegas-Colorado or New York-Boston series last round and then flipping to Montreal-Winnipeg felt like watching a completely different sport.
Crowds will also have an impact in this series as the two countries are clearly in different stages of their pandemic recovery. For all intents and purposes, life is normal in Las Vegas again as the Golden Knights will play in front of 100% capacity with no restrictions. The same can not be said for Montreal, where there are only 2500 spectators currently allowed into the Bell Centre; barely 10% of capacity. One team will clearly have a much more profound home-ice advantage in this series, and that’s the Golden Knights.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Canadiens. They’ve gotten contributions from up and down their lineup. Veterans like Corey Perry and Eric Staal have turned back the clock a bit and have had solid playoff performances. Phillip Danault has done a masterful job against the top line of the opponent with his linemates. Montreal has also gotten key contributions from youngsters such as Cole Caufield, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki.
With that being said, the most important factor for the Habs in these playoffs has been the play of goaltender Carey Price. After spending many seasons as one of the best goalies in the world, Price has had back-to-back subpar regular seasons. However, he’s entered a time machine in these playoffs posting a goals saved above expectation of +8.6 and a save percentage of 93.5%.
Despite the positives for the Canadiens, Vegas is simply a better team. They have more high-end talent with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo all elite at their positions. Marc-Andre Fleury had a terrific regular season and has been very good in the playoffs with a +4.7 goals saved above expectation. The Golden Knights also have tremendous depth with players like Alec Martinez, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson all shining in these playoffs.
However, like all hockey betting, we need to account for the price. -265 is simply too much to lay with the Golden Knights here. Montreal has no pressure, has had more rest before this series and has a goalie fully capable of stealing a game. While I don’t expect it to happen, Montreal is clearly worthy of a bet at +230. It could be ugly, and you have to be prepared for that. Just close your eyes and hope the bounces go your way for one night.
The Pick: Canadiens ML @ +230 (Click to bet)