By W.G. Ramirez
It’s been quite an impressive start to our Betting Spotlight since it debuted earlier this month.
Now 9-2 with totals involving the Golden Knights, and 3-1 with top-rated power plays throughout the league, we look to continue our winning ways with tonight’s visit to Chicago.
Vegas has won three straight games, capped by a pair of back-to-back shutouts on Friday and Saturday against Calgary and San Jose, respectively. The first, second and fourth line have come together nicely and the Golden Knights looked like the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
”The last three games I thought we played real well,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s headed in the right direction, we got to keep playing the same way. It all starts with playing good defensive hockey and keeping the puck out of your net. That’s where it started with our group.”
Gallant and the Golden Knights will hope it continues on the road for three games, before they return home for the second and final meeting with defending Stanley Cup champion Washington, which arrives at the scene the Capitals hoisted the Cup in June, on Dec. 4.
Tonight in Chicago, a Blackhawks team awaits.
Like Vegas, the ‘Hawks have struggled early on, only they haven’t found their footing on the slippery surface. Chicago just snapped an eight-game road losing streak with a 5-4 victory over Florida. The Blackhawks have won three times in six games, and just added a pair of former first-round picks in forward Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini — both of whom may be available to play tonight.
Chicago is 5-3-3 at home this season, but is also 1-4-2 against Pacific Division teams. Vegas, meanwhile, is 5-9-0 on the road and 1-3-0 against the Central Division.
Oddsmakers have made the Golden Knights a -120 road favorite, while the Blackhawks bring back +110.
Value in the Knights
Vegas may have performed better than it has the entire season in a 6-0 win over San Jose on Saturday. The Golden Knights skated fast, hit hard, put the puck to the net, defended well and for the most part resembled the team that won the Western Conference championship last season.
Forward Cody Eakin said Monday that Gallant’s approach with the team has helped the Golden Knights come together, as they’ve worked out their kinks on their own. Not having a coach breathe down their necks, and remaining confident in his players has helped right the ship. That also helps a team bond and prepare it for a road trip. The Golden Knights are playing with the right mindset now, and with a three-game win streak fueling their momentum, there is plenty of value in laying a cheap price.
Value in the Blackhawks
Strome and Perlini wasted no time in getting to work with Chicago, as they joined their new teammates on the ice Monday, after being acquired Sunday night in a trade with Arizona. There’s something to be said for adding new chemistry, and this may be the spark Chicago needs. These two add depth, and it reminds the rest of the team nobody’s spot is safe and they can be shipped out at a moment’s notice.
That said, we’re counting on them being on the ice, and it could very well turn things around in the right direction, and bolster an offense that finally scored more than three goals after 13 straight of netting three or less in Saturday’s 5-4 win over Florida.
As of 7:30 a.m. pacific, the line we’re seeing is 5 1/2-under -110.
We’re calling for a goalie duel between the league’s last two stars for the week. Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to battle Corey Crawford, so we’re playing this one Under. Crawford has lost two in a row, but that followed a stellar week in which he allowed two goals in three games, going 2-0-1 at home against St. Louis, Los Angeles and Minnesota. He’s had plenty of rest since his last start, on Friday, and should be ready to thwart the Golden Knights’ effort. With Fleury, he’s in after stopping 81 of the 83 shots he faced, going 3-0-0 with a 0.65 goals-against average, and producing a .976 save percentage and two shutouts to lift the Golden Knights into third place in the Pacific Division. He, too, has been rested since Saturday, and should be fresh for tonight’s game.
The Blackhawks are in on a 5-1-2 Under run, while Vegas has stayed low in five of its last eight, and 14 of 21. Play this game Under.
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