Admittedly, I thought making room for Jack Eichel by placing Mark Stone on injured reserve would benefit the Golden Knights, and maybe it still will. But Vegas has been one of the worst teams in the NHL since the All-Star break and is now in danger of missing the playoffs altogether.
At one point, Vegas looked like a solid bet to win the Pacific Division and a contender to win the Stanley Cup, but with 20 games to go, the Golden Knights are barely holding on to the last playoff spot. DraftKings lists their odds of making the playoffs at -135 as of Tuesday. Alternatively, bettors can bet them to miss the playoffs at + 115.
Vegas seems to lack the shooting talent to cash in on its chances, which has always been a problem. The Golden Knights typically rank among the best in terms of generating expected goals, but for one reason or another, the team can’t break through the ceiling, and that’s probably not going to change. Only one team has scored fewer goals than the Golden Knights since Feb. 7, even though Vegas has been generating expected goals at an average rate.
Injuries have been a big problem all season for the Golden Knights. Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith, Mattias Janmark and Robin Lehner all have recently suffered injuries. The Golden Knights need Pacioretty, Eichel and Lehner to carry them to the playoffs. Star players, propped up by depth and goaltending, must drive the Golden Knights. With holes in all three areas, it’s tough to be optimistic in the short term.
If Lehner isn’t able to return to the crease in a timely manner, the team will really be in trouble. Laurent Brossoit is a fine backup, but this team needs an above-average goaltender, especially in its current state, and it’s unlikely Brossoit will be able to provide that.
Everything comes down to how the lineup takes shape over the next week and whether their top players can stay healthy. Betting on the Golden Knights to miss the playoffs is risky business, even if there is a little bit of value, and I would strongly recommend taking it one game at a time. But betting against the Golden Knights in single-game situations has offered some good value of late. By doing that, you don’t have to fear the team getting healthy and going on a run.
Don’t be afraid to fade the Wild down the stretch
According to hockey stats website Natural Stat Trick, only the Red Wings (4.75) have allowed more goals than the Wild (4.2) since the All-Star break. During that stretch, the Wild have lost six of 17 games and have accounted for just 43.5% of expected goals.
The Wild are still holding on to the third spot in the Central Division and will probably end up making the playoffs, but they’re not outplaying teams and their goaltenders have combined to post an .864 save percentage. The Wild are going to be a tough team to bet on down the stretch, but under the right circumstances, they’ll be an easy team to bet against.
The Wild are set to play their next seven games at home, where they have done well. However, given their current form, I’ll be looking for the market to overrate them. The earliest opportunity to fade the Wild will come Wednesday, when they host the Bruins. The Bruins will be on the second half of a back-to-back, but Jeremy Swayman and his .927 save percentage should be between the pipes. The Bruins will be tired, but according to my model, they should be a small favorite — and an even bigger favorite if Cam Talbot is in goal.