Despite a strong showing in the first period, the Montreal Canadiens fell 4-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series. Bettors who couldn’t resist betting on the Canadiens to win the series are now holding tickets that aren’t worth as much as they should be given that the Habs now carry an adjusted series price as high as + 650 at shops like DraftKings and William Hill and as low as + 500 and + 550 at others. Bettors should absolutely pass on betting the Canadiens to win the series at + 550 or worse when a shop like Circa Sports is offering + 750. The best series price before the start of the series was around + 400. Betting the Canadiens to win the series now can be a good bet or a bad one, depending on the price you pay.
By my estimation, the Golden Knights will win the series 85% of the time, which means the Canadiens’ series price should be around + 565. However, that’s assuming Montreal’s Jeff Petry is back on defense, but his status is questionable heading into Wednesday's Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena. When a player like that is out of the lineup it means that lesser players will have to play bigger roles. It could also mean that a defender who typically covers the right side of the ice will have to play the left, or vice versa, and this can really throw a team off. Petry is important to the Canadiens’ breakout, and it was obvious in the series opener. The Canadiens had an incredibly hard time moving the puck out of their zone, and when they did gain the offensive blue line, the Golden Knights were there to clog up space and force turnovers. It was shutdown hockey at its finest.
At this point, there isn’t really any value in betting an exact series outcome, but I’ve provided my estimates in case they are of use. I wasn’t able to find any value at any of the handful of shops I visited. The most likely outcome is the Golden Knights winning in five games. As far as betting Game 2 on Wednesday, not much has changed. I don’t believe + 220 is a great bet, especially after the way the Canadiens played on Monday. Bettors who shopped around might have been able to get + 235 or better, and that’s not bad. Consider this recycled advice, but as long as Petry’s status is up in the air, which will be the case until game time, I’m not going to back the Canadiens unless there’s extra incentive to do so.
One bettor messaged me on Twitter and showed me a + 250 moneyline ticket that he had for Game 1. If you’re going to lose a bet, lose it like that, with the best odds. Personally, I’m sticking with my original plan that I outlined in my series preview. Hold your nose and bet on the Canadiens to win the series at + 650 or better.
Additionally, there will likely be value in betting some Canadiens players not to score points on Wednesday, but at the time of this writing, no sportsbooks have player props listed for the game. Be sure to check out “Prime Time Action” before the game on Wednesday evening as we’ll take a look at some player props and other ways to approach the game from a betting perspective.