Vegas Golden Knights vs. Montreal Canadiens Prediction: Game 6 Picks
The New York Islanders forced a game seven with their win on Wednesday night, and the Vegas Golden Knights will look to do the same on Thursday. On the other side, the Montreal Canadiens will look to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup finals on Thursday for the first time since 1993, as they return home after a game five victory. Here's my Golden Knights vs. Canadiens prediction for game 6.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Montreal Canadiens Prediction
Montreal Leads 3-2
They pulled off a miracle against the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one, some said. Few were quick to give them credit after sweeping the Winnipeg Jets, citing that everybody was well aware the Jets were an extremely flawed team. Now, after putting the Vegas Golden Knights on the brink of elimination in the semi-finals, people are finally beginning to believe that the Montreal Canadiens are for real.
Vegas closed as nearly -280 favorites in game one, -250 favorites in game two, -180 favorites in games three and four on the road and -230 favorites in game five back at home. Prior to the start of the series, Vegas was nearly -500 at some books to win the series.
Looking at the odds for game six and the current odds for the series, it seems like the Montreal Canadiens are finally getting the respect they deserve. Vegas is as low as -140 favorites at some books for game six. Montreal is also a -190 favorite to win the series and advance to the final, marking the first time in this series they’re favored to advance.
Through five games, Montreal has a 10.74 to 9.99 advantage when it comes to expected goals. Montreal also has a 58 to 42 advantage when it comes to high danger chances. A lot of these numbers are slightly skewed as well, as Montreal has spent a good portion of the series with the lead which allows score-effects to play a part.
While Montreal has been the better team analytically, you can also see more cohesion within the Canadiens just from watching the two teams play. Montreal is at their best when they can defend and limit the other team while scoring quickly off the counter attack. Vegas tries to play a style that wears teams down, but it doesn’t work as effectively when Montreal is willing to check and defend.
The Canadiens have gotten contributions from almost every single player during this playoff run. Eric Staal scored a key goal in game five. He and Corey Perry are considered the older statesmen on the roster, and both have looked ten years younger in these playoffs. Players like Tyler Toffoli have playoff experience as well.
Speaking of younger, Cole Caufield is having a huge coming out party on a national stage. Caufield was playing college hockey a few months ago, and now he’s lighting the lamp in the playoffs. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki have also been dynamite for the Habs.
Montreal has gotten tremendous contributions from their gritty, grinding forward group on both sides of the puck. Players like Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher might be more known for scoring than the others, but guys like Joel Armia and Paul Byron have lit the lamp with frequency in these playoffs.
For Vegas, it’s a bit of a scramble. Chandler Stephenson returned to the lineup in game five, but he obviously wasn’t 100% as his minutes were limited. Stephenson usually anchors Vegas’ top line with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, but players like Alex Tuch and Nicolas Roy were often slotted into that spot. This has created a bit of an imbalance amongst the Golden Knights forwards as players are playing on different lines and in roles they aren’t used to.
One of the main stories of this series has been the play of Carey Price. Price ranks second in these playoffs with a goals saved above expectation of +10.9. He hasn’t had to be brilliant in this series as Montreal has done a tremendous job of defending, but it seems like Price pulls out one or two insane saves every game. Price was once considered the best goalie in hockey, and he’s certainly regained that form in the playoffs.
The goaltending situation isn’t as clear for the Golden Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury has served as the starter for most of the season and all but two playoff games. However, Fleury’s gaffe late in game three cost the Golden Knights a win. Coach Pete DeBoer turned to Robin Lehner to give Fleury a rest in game four. Lehner was spectacular, backstopping Vegas to victory.
Despite conventional wisdom saying to ride the hot goalie, DeBoer went back to Fleury in game five. Fleury was unspectacular, getting beaten three times by the Habs. Now, DeBoer will have to make another tough choice. Does he continue to roll with his starting goaltender or does he try to catch lightning in a bottle with Lehner?
I honestly have no clue as to which way Vegas will go between the pipes, but I have confidence in both goalies so it won’t make much of an impact on my handicap.
All five games in this series have seen five goals or less scored. Montreal is not known for their offensive prowess, but they do defend extremely well and have a red-hot Carey Price between the pipes. Vegas is struggling to score and hasn’t been generating much in terms of high danger chances. They will also likely receive solid goaltending from whoever starts for them in net.
Most sportsbooks have the total at a flat five goals, but there’s still some books like FanDuel where you can find the total listed at 5.5 goals. I’d play under five at plus-money, but if possible, I’d look to get the hook and bet under 5.5 goals. I expect another low-scoring game on Thursday night.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Montreal Canadiens Prediction: Under 5.5 Goals