The Stanley Cup finals are finally here and either a generational talent or an expansion franchise will take the Cup home. In either case, the storylines for the 17-18 NHL championship are outstanding. As gamblers, however, we only care about one thing. How should we bet?
Before getting to the analysis of the picks, there are two important things to note. First, basing the pick on the regular season matchups does not make much sense. On Follow the Money on VSIN, Mitch Moss shared a story about the Capitals’ road trip to Vegas in which the Capitals players were filmed partying from Saturday until late Monday night ahead of their loss in a Tuesday game.
A second thing to note is that the Vegas sportsbooks have massive liability if the Knights win the Cup. The relevance is that the books will want people to take Washington to balance their losses in the event of a Vegas win. In other words, if the sportsbooks think the teams are exactly even, they might move Vegas to -115 and Washington to +100 to encourage action on the Capitals.
The case for betting on the Capitals
Betting on Washington allows the bettor to get plus money. Depending on the shop, Washington is somewhere between +105 and +130, with +115 being the most common price. Getting that kind of number is a bonus considering that Braden Holtby just pitched back-to-back shutouts against the highest scoring team in the league. In fact, according to the Sporting News, Holtby has a .924 save percentage in the playoffs this season, and for his career he has the 2nd best save percentage of any goalie who has played in at least 50 playoff games.
On the offensive side of the puck, the Capitals have 3 of the top 21 point per game players in this playoff season while the Knights only have 1. Washington also has 6 of the top 15 players in terms of plus/minus,which indicates that their top line and best defensive pairing have been dominate this postseason. The elite players on Washington are better than the best players on Vegas.
Because of a red hot goalie, elite top level players and the best defensive pairing this postseason, betting on the Capitals at plus money is certainly viable.
The case for betting on the Knights
As well as Holtby is playing, Marc-Andre Fleury has been better by just about every statistical measure. His save percentage and goals against average are both significantly better than Holtby’s have been. In fact, Fleury made more saves in 15 games than Holtby did in 18!
As a team, the Knights have gone 12-3 during the playoffs and are 6-1 at home. Against the Jets, they did not trail from games 2 through 5 at any point in time. In their three playoff losses they gave up 12 goals and in the 12 wins they only allowed a combined 15 goals.
Offensively, the Knights are four lines deep and play an up-tempo pace that will be a challenge for the Capitals. Vegas attacks relentlessly and is aggressive defensively in a way that the Capitals have not seen yet.
Vegas has proven to be the best team in the league in just about every measurable way. It seemed completely impossible that the Knights could actually get to the Cup finals and now they are the favorite to take it down. Betting on them is the logical thing to do.
Final verdict: Vegas is the best team in the league, as impossible as that seems. A creative way to bet would be to take Washington before the series starts and hope they win game one. Then, bet the series price in favor of Vegas at plus money too and lock in a profit. Forced to pick a side, the favorite seems likely to take the Cup to its new home in Las Vegas.
One final statistic to file away for in-game wagering is that the Knights are 34-5-2 when they have scored first this season. If the Knights get the lead, jump on them!