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NHL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi provides his best bet for Sunday's contest between the Canucks and the Golden Knights.
ANALYSIS

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks Prediction: Look for the Knights to Keep Winning

With the playoffs less than a month away, the games are becoming critically important for teams on the bubble of the playoff picture. One of Sunday's games features two teams on the outside looking in—Vegas and Vancouver. Vancouver's season is on life support, as they sit eight points out of a playoff spot. Vegas is only a point out, but they have three fewer games remaining than Dallas, the team that holds the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. With both teams fighting to keep their respective seasons alive, this matchup should be closely contested. Here is my best bet for the game.

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Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks Prediction

The Golden Knights (38-28-4) have seen some wild swings of variance over the past few weeks. They come into this game riding a four-game winning streak, but also suffered a five-game losing streak just three weeks ago. Vegas' slide was due in large part to their slew of injuries; Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Reilly Smith have all missed extensive time, among others. However, the Knights have recovered nicely despite being far from healthy, frequently outplaying their opponents since the losing streak. Let's see if that is sustainable.

The Canucks (32-28-9) will be well rested for this game—their last game was on Wednesday, a home loss to the Blues. That being said, it isn't certain that the rest will do the Canucks much good, as they've lost six of their last eight. Those results are confirmed by their underlying numbers, which show that Vancouver's quality of play has decreased since early March. They have been frequently losing the expected goals battle to their opponents, which will not be a formula for success against Vegas.

This is because the Golden Knights are one of the league's best teams in terms of chance generation. They rank fifth in the NHL with an xGF/60 of 2.82 at even strength, which means that they create quality scoring chances for themselves at a higher rate than most teams do. Unless the Canucks can improve on their recent form of play, they could be in for a long day.

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The goaltending matchup for this game projects to be relatively even. Both teams are expected to roll with their starters—Robin Lehner for Vegas, Thatcher Demko for Vancouver. Lehner has saved 7.6 goals above expected this season, while Demko edges him out with a GSAx count of 11.5. Vancouver has a slight advantage in terms of goaltending, maybe, but nothing more than that.

Vancouver should not be favored in this spot. They are hosting the game, sure, but they've been worse at home than on the road this season. They are healthier, but Vegas has proven that they can play through their injuries and generate positive results. The Golden Knights are better at even strength, have better special teams, and are in better form. Bet them down to -115 on the moneyline.

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks Line Movement

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks Prediction

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Article Author

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.

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