By W.G. Ramirez
Vegas (7-9-1) opened Saturday’s game in Montreal with a strong 20 minutes, and a 2-0 lead. Then, as they have many times this season, the Golden Knights collapsed, allowed their opponent to seize control of the game, and eventually lost the game.
Last year at this time - after 17 games - the Golden Knights were 10-6-1. That’s only a three-game difference, but they also looked and played much differently. Vegas will be looking to get home without any more injuries, and one game closer to being back at .500 before a two-game homestand.
Boston is in after an impressive 5-1 victory over Eastern Conference-contending Toronto, as the Bruins got a 40-save effort from Jaroslav Halak. The Bruins are 2-1-0 during this four-game home stand and come into this one playing well. A victory would send them on an upcoming road trip with a wealth of momentum. Boston plays six of its next seven games on the road, beginning with a four-game road trip over eight days.
Yesterday the storyline was the return of Max Pacioretty in Montreal. Today the Golden Knights could play Malcolm Subban in net, and if that happens, their backup goalie would face his former team.
Value in the Knights
The one thing we saw from Vegas last season, was how it closed out road trips of two games or more. The Golden Knights were 8-4-0 on the final game of a road trip, including a 4-3-0 mark in the final games of a road trip that followed a loss. Vegas will still be stinging from yesterday’s loss, and in going against Jaroslav Halak, who started in net for the Bruins in yesterday’s 5-1 win over Toronto, the Golden Knights might catch a tired goalie. Furthermore, Vegas was 6-5-0 on the second in the back-to-back games. And while Pacioretty played his best game yesterday but was left off the scoresheet, he is familiar with this arena and could be the one guy who carries positive momentum into this game and nets one or two.
Value in the Bruins
Boston is 1-0-1 on the second of back-to-back games, and the one disadvantage Vegas has in playing its second of consecutive games is it was 1-3-0 last season when playing in that situation after a loss. The Bruins and Golden Knights each won their home game in last season’s series, and Boston rolls into this game sporting a 6-2-0 mark at home. While the Golden Knights have shown improvement with their power play, Boston hasn’t had an issue most of the young season and comes in with the league’s third-best conversion rate with a man advantage. At home, the Bruins have the second-best power play in the league (12 of 29, 41.4 percent). Those unassuming intangibles make the Bruins a value play on the puck line.
Three straight totals have cashed in from our Betting Spotlight, as we told you the Under was value when the Golden Knights went to Toronto and the Over was value in Ottawa and Montreal. Tonight is a strange one, especially with there still a question as to who will be in net for Vegas (at press time). The total of 5 1/2 is a bit lower than we expected, but the Under may be the right side of this game. Vegas has to respond after Marc-Andre Fleury let five in the net yesterday. If he goes for Vegas, he’ll be out to avenge the loss. If it’s Subban, he’ll have his best effort in what will be his fourth appearance this season, in facing his former team. As for Halak, keep in mind while playing for the New York Islanders last season, he defeated a much better Golden Knights team twice, allowing just four goals in the two games. He stopped 69 of 73 shots in those wins. Look for a tight game tonight.
W.G. Ramirez is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas who covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez