Finally, Golden Knights' backers can bet with their hearts AND heads

Brent Musburger  
VSiN managing editor

May 11, 2018 01:26 PM

USATSI_10581052_168384654_lowres
Favored Blake Wheeler and the Jets are going to try to crash the Golden Knights' party.
© USA Today Sports Images

We already know that bettors can’t get enough of the Golden Knights. But since they are finally an underdog heading into their next playoff series, that angle has taken on new meaning.

 

Folks aren’t just betting with their hearts. Now it’s a value play that created a land rush late Thursday night. That was when Jay Kornegay at the Westgate SuperBook posted Winnipeg as a –160 favorite to win the Western Conference Final. That meant the Golden Knights were a 140 underdog. But not for long. By Friday morning they had been bet down to 120.

 

Plus money on the Knights sent alarms buzzing here in Las Vegas. Chris Andrews at the South Point certainly felt that, especially since his book is open 24 hours. But apps all over the state never sleep, and they were humming as the Jets were winding up their Game 7 victory in Nashville.

 

The public clearly sees what happened during the regular season, and they are encouraged by the goalie matchup between Marc-André Fleury and Connor Hellebuyck.

 

The Golden Knights won 2 of 3 against the Jets, including a 5-2 home-ice win on Nov. 10 when Fleury was hurt and Hellebuyck was chased. The Knights were a 115 underdog for that game. Oh, how times have changed. Fleury was still on the shelf three weeks later in Winnipeg, when the Jets erupted for five goals on Maxime Legace in the third period of a 7-4 win. At the time Hellebuyck and the Jets were a –200 favorite.

 

But then came Feb. 1, when the Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime in Fleury’s only start against the Jets. Hellebuyck played all three games in the season series with a goals-against average of 4.40.

 

Head-to-head, then, the Golden Knights look golden. But most of the regular-season series was a long time ago. If you look at the bigger sample size of 82 games’ worth of statistics, you will see why the wise guys have been jumping on Winnipeg almost all season. VSiN newsletter editor Jeff Fogle broke down some key numbers comparing the two teams:

 

Goal differential: Jets plus 59, Golden Knights plus 44.

Five-on-five goal differential: Jets plus 30, Golden Knights plus 18.

Goals-per-game ranking: Jets 2nd, Golden Knights 5th.

Goals-allowed-per game: Jets 5th, Golden Knights 8th.

 

Against the rest of the NHL, Hellebuyck was dynamite. Born and raised in suburban Detroit, he won 44 games, a league-high for an American-born goalie. Another U.S. native with the Jets – Minnesotan Blake Wheeler – shared the NHL lead with 68 assists, and Finnish-born Patrik Laine had 44 goals, second only to Alex Ovechkin.

 

The Jets racked up a franchise-record 114 points, the second-most in the league and the most of the four teams left in the playoffs. That’s why they have the home-ice advantage. But it was also very impressive that to get to their first conference final, the Jets went on the road to win that Game 7 Thursday night at Nashville. Had I bet the game before it started, I would have been on the Predators’ side. I should have been paying more attention to the road-ice advantage. Five of the seven games in that series were won by the away team.

 

A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since the Montréal Canadiens did it 25 years ago. So all of Canada is pulling against the Golden Knights – except the relatives of the 17 Canadians who are on their roster.

 

If you really want to show your love for the Golden Knights, just go to the Westgate and bet that they sweep away the Jets in four games. The payoff would be 1500. That’ll show them up north.

 

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