Golden Knights vs. Canadiens Predictions - NHL Picks
For the first time this season, an American-based team will head to Canada to play an NHL game north of the border. The Montreal Canadiens pulled off a big win as substantial underdogs in game two, and now they’ll get to play host to the Vegas Golden Knights as the series shifts back to Quebec.
Series Tied 1-1
There’s no denying the fact that Wednesday’s win in game two for Montreal was huge. Anytime a road team can get a split in the first two games of the series, they’ve done their job. More impressive is the perception of these teams heading into this series. Vegas was nearly -500 favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Many people wrote off the all-Canadian North Division and suggested they’d have no chance against the elite teams in the rest of the league. After winning a road game as +220 underdogs in a full capacity T-Mobile Arena, people are starting to take notice of the Habs.
Usually when a team earns a split on the road, you expect an amped up crowd to welcome them home. Unfortunately for Montreal, it doesn’t seem like that’ll be the case. Canada is still substantially behind the United States in their reopening plan, so capacity will be limited. In their last home game, Montreal played in front of just 2500 fans. While they won’t have a true home-ice advantage, they’ll at least get away from the crazed fans in Nevada while still getting all the other benefits of being the home team such as last change.
The combination of shift in venue and Montreal’s play through the first two games has created a major shift in the odds. Vegas closed as -265 favorites in game two, but at the time of writing they’re down all the way to -162 for game three. In the other series, we saw a shift from Tampa Bay to Long Island be worth about 50 points on the moneyline, so it’s rather crazy to see a team with limited fans get the line shifted 100 points in their direction.
Another explanation for the movement could be the play of the Canadiens and how bookmakers are taking notice. Montreal played Vegas rather tightly in game one of the series and the 4-1 scoreline wasn’t really indicative of the game as a whole. However, there’s no questioning who the better team was in game two.
Montreal posted a 2.74 to 1.66 advantage in terms of expected goals when you adjust for score effects. Montreal generated 15 high danger chances while holding Vegas to just nine. The Canadiens had a 24-20 advantage in terms of scoring chances as well.
Most importantly for Montreal, they clearly won the goaltending battle in game two. Marc-Andre Fleury was beaten three times on just 23 shots, while Carey Price stood tall in turning away 29 of 31 shots from Vegas. Montreal’s second goal from Tyler Toffoli is a goal that most would consider soft, as Toffoli misfired and the puck slid along the ice through Fleury’s legs. Price made key saves to keep Montreal in front.
If you had to pick a weakness for this Vegas team entering the playoffs, it’d probably be their center depth. That depth was tested in game two when Chandler Stephenson was forced to miss the game due to an injury. Stephenson’s absence was noticed as Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, his usual linemates, were much quieter than usual. In his absence, Nicolas Roy was forced to move from the third line to center the first line while Keegan Kolesar went from the fourth line to the top nine. It threw the forward group in disarray and exposed an already thin group down the middle. Stephenson is questionable for game three.
For Montreal, it was business as usual as they got contributions from up and down their lineup. Cole Caufield was instrumental in setting up Tyler Toffoli’s goal. Joel Armia and Paul Byron, more known for their checking and intangibles, both contributed goals. Corey Perry was noticeable as his resurgence continues. Jeff Petry played through injury and was impressive in doing so.
Despite Montreal’s good showing, I still think Vegas wins this series. The Golden Knights figured out the Colorado Avalanche as the series went along, rebounding from a 2-0 deficit to eliminate them. The Canadiens are not the Avalanche. Montreal does a good job of defending and slowing down games, but Vegas is comfortable playing that style as well.
The huge shift from game two and game three is worth noting. I did think that Montreal was underrated in the first two games of the series, but this might be an overadjustment. When you consider how few fans will be in the building, the value of home-ice advantage wanes considerably.
Despite this, I’m still weary of laying -162 with Vegas in this spot as a road favorite. I’d look towards the 60 minute line where you can get the Golden Knights at plus-money. Just hope Vegas can get the job done in regulation, which they should if Stephenson returns to the line-up.
NHL Picks: Golden Knights vs. Canadiens - Game 3
The Pick: Vegas To Win In Regulation +106