By W.G. Ramirez
The Vegas Golden Knights will do something they haven’t done a few weeks, and that is hit the ice after a loss. The Knights fell 3-2 to San Jose on Thursday in a crucial Pacific Division showdown, ending their seven-game win streak, and will look to avenge the setback in Chicago against the struggling Blackhawks.
Vegas has defeated Chicago twice already this season, and is 5-0-0 since last its inaugural season. The Golden Knights won 8-3 in Chicago, and 4-3 in Las Vegas.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have lost four of their past five games, including a 4-3 overtime loss to Nashville on Wednesday night.
We are 19-10-2 with totals involving the Golden Knights, after hitting the Under in Thursday’s game against the Sharks. We’re also on a 4-3 run with top-rated power plays throughout the league and look forward to returning with our power plays not involving Vegas.
As of 4 pm pacific, the Knights are -170, while the Blackhawks are taking back +160.
Value in the Knights
Considering the puck line brings back a hefty plus-price, there is plenty of value in playing Vegas minus the goal and a half tonight. Despite its loss to San Jose, this team is still playing its best hockey right now. Center Cody Eakin, who was scratched Thursday, is expected to return to the lineup, while it appears Max Pacioretty will be back alongside his second-line mates Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch. Young Brandon Pirri moves up to the top line to join Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson, a duo that should incorporate the young scoring sensation onto the unit with no problem. Since opening the season 1-4, the Golden Knights are 10-3-1 following a loss. If you’re going to bet Vegas, it has to be on the puck line.
Value in the Blackhawks
If this game was in Vegas, the defending Western Conference champs might be laying close to $3 to the Blackhawks. And that leaves one to wonder why, albeit on the road, the Knights are ‘just’ -1.70 in this one. Perhaps the oddsmakers see this as a potential spot for the Blackhawks to score an upset. By making the line ‘low’, it could attract overzealous money on Vegas. But with the Knights fresh off the loss to San Jose, and having to travel and play less than 48 hours after that game, they might be sluggish. Collin Delia is in net for Chicago, and he brings with him a 2.49 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in six starts. With two days to ponder the 4-3 OT loss to Nashville, the Blackhawks could play with confidence tonight, and clip the unsuspecting, hungover Knights.
THE TOTAL: As of 4 pm pacific, the total in this game is 6 1/2-over -110.
The oddsmakers have added a half-goal to what Vegas is used to, as the total is sitting on 6 1/2. But we’re going to lean toward the Under. The Golden Knights were none too pleased with the Sharks scoring two goals 39 seconds apart to steal one in T-Mobile Arena. And goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has always been one to bounce back in stingy fashion. Delia will be up for the challenge, and we should see a goaltenders’ duel, as he too will be looking to atone for his last start, after giving up four to Nashville. In fact, Delia has given up 10 goals in his last three starts, so he’ll be on a mission - and in a good spot - to silence what could be a tired Vegas team. This one stays low.
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