By W.G. Ramirez
The Vegas Golden Knights are 1-0-0 with Nate Schmidt in the lineup.
Problem is, they’re 9-11-1 without James Neal, who is now with the Calgary Flames, who are 11-8-1.
Tonight, the Golden Knights face the Flames, and Neal, the player who will go down in Vegas’ record book with the first goal in franchise history.
Vegas is in after Sunday’s 6-3 win in Edmonton, as Knights On Ice improved to 6-1 with the Over/Unders involving the Golden Knights after delivering the Over. Tonight, it doesn’t get any easier against a Flames team that is also in after beating Edmonton, a 4-2 decision on Saturday.
With one night to rest, the Flames figure to have the edge, which is probably why they’ve been installed as a -145 favorite over Vegas. The total is 5 1/2-over, -120.
Value in the Knights
For the second straight night, we’re going to call upon the urgency of playing within the Pacific Division as the key factor in finding value in the underdog Golden Knights. If there is on consolation the Knights can take after the first six weeks of the campaign, it’s their 3-0-1 mark against division opponents.
We’ve seen Vegas lose to Vancouver at home in overtime but sweep the Ducks and beat Edmonton by a combined final of 16-7. Coach Gerard Gallant has said several times over the first two months that getting wins in the division is important early on, and the rest of the wins would come as the team continues to get healthy. The emergence of the first line last night should also add a spark to tonight’s offense.
Value in the Flames
Calgary is 5-3-1 at home this season, and will come into the game with a chip on its schedule. Six Flames are in double figures with points, including blue-liner Mark Giordano. We saw their offense come to life Saturday, when the Flames fell behind 2-1 but lit the lamp in the third period, when they scored three goals to complete the comeback.
Two of those goals were scored by Elias Lindholm, his 10th and 11th of the season. And this is where the Golden Knights could be in trouble - the third period, where the Flames have outscored foes, 32-15. Sean Monahan has seven of his 10 goals in the third period this season and Lindholm has seven of his 11 goals in the final frame. Oh, and Neal is just one point away from notching his 500th career point.
Wouldn’t it be something to see Neal get No. 500 with a game-winner in the third? Calgary’s offense provides plenty of value when laying the money.
With Vegas likely turning to Malcolm Subban, and David Rittich in net for the Flames, we’re calling for another Over, in another marathon.
Calgary has had some of the biggest posted totals of the young season - 15 of its 20 games have had a 6 or 6 1/2 on the board - the Flames have stayed Under in 10 of 19, with a push in their last game.
Calgary is in on a 4-0-1 Under run and is poised for a high-scoring game. With how well the Flames have performed in the third period, and this one being at home, Subban will struggle to keep the pucks out of his net and will need his team to put forth another stellar offensive effort for a second-straight night.
Rittich has the third-best goals against average in the league, but let’s gauge the teams he’s faced: at St. Louis (13th), at Colorado (2nd), at the Rangers (24th), at Montreal (11th), vs. Pittsburgh (7th), at Buffalo (21st), vs. Chicago (26th), at Los Angeles (31st) and vs. Edmonton (23rd). Five of those teams rank in the second half of the league, with St. Louis close. With the total at 5 1/2, we like this one to go Over.
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