It’s the biggest game of the season in Winnipeg tonight, as the Jets welcome the Vegas Golden Knights to town for the first time since last season’s darlings of the NHL skated off with the Western Conference crown, despite possibly being the second-best team in the West.
Winnipeg, up and down the roster, might have been the most talented team in the conference, but everyone knows how spirited the Golden Knights were, and behind a second-period goal by Winnipeg-native Ryan Reaves and a 31-save performance by sure-to-be first-ballot Hall of Fame goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas earned the Stanley Cup berth.
Here comes the rematch, and possibly revenge.
In the first of three regular-season meetings between the teams, and the only clash in Winnipeg, the Jets have had this game circled since the schedule was made, there’s no doubt about it.
Both teams have 60 points, and the Jets are in first place in the Central Division, while the Knights are in third place - behind Calgary and San Jose - in the tightly contested Pacific Division.
We are 19-11-2 with totals involving the Golden Knights, after losing with the Under in Saturday’s game against the Blackhawks. We’re also on a 4-3 run with top-rated power plays that involve other teams on off nights.
As of 4 a.m. pacific, the Knights are -115, while the Jets are taking back +125.
Value in the Knights
Vegas, 8-1-1 in its last 10 games, had its seven-game win streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to the Sharks last Thursday. The Golden Knights could’ve folded when falling behind by two goals twice, but earned a 4-3 overtime win at Chicago on Saturday. With a couple of days to prepare for this epic showdown - they’re on a 6-0 run when playing on a two days rest - the Golden Knights face being an underdog for just the 10th time this season. Vegas has won four straight on the road, and is also on a 5-0 win streak against the Central Division. As much as Winnipeg will be up for this game, the Golden Knights will also look to rise up. It’s rare you find Vegas catching a plus price, so if you’re going to play it as an underdog, today is as good as any other day.
Value in the Jets
Winnipeg has the most home wins in the Western Conference (17-6-2), and comes into this one having won four of its last five games. The Jets are in off a 4-3 overtime victory over visiting Anaheim on Sunday night. They catch the Golden Knights mired in one of the only losing streaks you may find - 1-8 when installed as an underdog. Though this is Winnipeg’s fourth game in six nights, make note the Jets are 7-1 in the fourth game of a four-in-six situation. They’re also 13-3 when playing on one days rest. Winnipeg has won four of its last five against the Pacific Division. The number has dipped from an overnight -130 to -125 to -115 at some places by Noon. Cheap number to lay for an awfully angry team.
As of Noon pacific, the total in this game is 6 1/2-under -110.
Our first inclination was to release the Under, in what we thought was going to be a tight game, dominated in the neutral zone by the defensive pairings, and in between the pipes by the netminders. But as it turns out, the total has jumped half a goal by the oddsmakers, adding the half-goal to the 6 this morning, and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck was on the ice after Winnipeg’s morning skate. It appears Laurent Brossoit is making the start for the Jets. Now, we know he is 9-1-1 this season, but he’s started once in 2019, and look at his last four starts: Detroit, Vancouver and Chicago twice. Not exactly the best competition. In come the high-flying Golden Knights, who love to start fast, and Brossoit could be in trouble early. Vegas has no choice but to start quick, knowing how eager the Jets will be. Fleury will be in net for Vegas, which makes things tough for Winnipeg, but not impossible. We need three goals from each team, and the Jets can net three on Flower. 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