By W.G. Ramirez
The Vegas Golden Knights return to the ice tonight, looking for their fifth-straight victory after shellacking the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, 8-3. Vegas will be looking for revenge when it visits former Knight Brendan Leipsic and the Vanouver Canucks, who went into T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 24 and stole a 3-2 shootout victory.
The Canucks are catching an entirely different team, as the Golden Knights resemble the squad that that went to the Stanley Cup Final last season, having outscored their last four opponents 19-5. In scoring five or more goals in five of their last seven wins, the Golden Knights have outscored their foes 35-11 in the seven wins — which include three shutouts.
”A lot of things went against us the first 20 games, and now we’re starting to find our game, we’re starting to play better and that’s what we gotta do, that’s the goal: keep working hard, keep playing hard, have some fun,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said.
Gallant and the Golden Knights are looking to sustain momentum during this three-game road trip, 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.
The Canucks have struggled since the middle of November, going 1-7-1 since Nov. 12. Their offense has scored more than three goals just one time in that nine-game span.
Vancouver is 5-4-1 at home this season, but 3-4-1 against Pacific Division teams. Vegas, meanwhile, is 6-9-1 on the road and 6-1-1 against the Pacific Division.
Now 9-3 with totals involving the Golden Knights, and 3-2 with top-rated power plays throughout the league, we look to continue our winning ways with tonight’s visit to Vancouver.
Oddsmakers have made the Golden Knights a -160 road favorite, while the Canucks bring back +140.
Value in the Knights
Vegas looks incredible, turning in offensive performances that out-do the previous one. After a 6-0 win over San Jose on Saturday, the Golden Knights were even better in an 8-3 win in Chicago. Forward Cody Eakin scored two goals against the Blackhawks. He has 16 points (10 goals, 6 assists) and is tied for the most goals on the team.
And while the top line of Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson leads the team with a combined 54 points (21 goals, 33 assists) this season, the emergence of Alex Tuch, Eakin and newcomer Max Pacioretty on the second line has bolstered the team’s offense with 48 points (26 goals, 22 assists). If you’re going to play the Golden Knights, the puck line is not a bad choice given how well they’re playing.
Value in the Canucks
We can talk about this brutal 1-7-1 stretch, or we can look at the bigger picture and say this is a home underdog that during a brutal nine-game span lost three games by one goal. And before the nine games, the Canucks were on a 4-0-2 run. Vancouver may be 5-7-3 since Oct. 29, but it has played competitive. Also, Elias Pettersson didn’t play against the Golden Knights in the first game. Pettersson leads all rookies in goals (13), points (21), power-play points (8) and shooting percentage (27.7 percent with a minimum 10 games played). He also shares the rookie lead in power-play goals (4) and ranks second in points per game (1.00) and tied for sixth in assists (8). If Vegas overlooks Vancouver and underestimates Pettersson, the Canucks may steal another one.
As of 2:30 p.m. pacific, the line we’re seeing is 6-over +105.
And we’re going to take this one Over the posted number with an underdog price. For now, all mentions of an Under should be taboo while the Golden Knights are playing the way they’re playing. They’re skating hard, they’re getting the puck into the neutral zone quicker, and on into the attack zone, their passes are quicker and they strike fast. You figure against a Canucks team that is struggling the way it is, Vegas’ first two lines should be good for at least four goals combined. That’s more than halfway there. If Pettersson can net one, and spark his team, and the Canucks continue to play close games, they should get at least three.
Vegas has gone Over in five of its last seven on the road, while dating back to last season, Vancouver has gone high in 20 of its last 27 at home. Play this one high.
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