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Sin-derella story isn't over yet

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Deryk Engelland accepts the Clarence Campbell Bowl from deputy commissioner Bill Daley after the Golden Knights finished off the Jets.
© USA Today Sports Images

The magic skate fits! Hockey’s Sin-derella story continues as the Vegas Golden Knights win the Western Conference with a 4-1 series stunner over Winnipeg. This fairy tale come-to-life’s final chapter will begin soon in the Stanley Cup Finals. Numbers and notes…plus updates from the NBA Playoffs and Preakness Weekend potpourri.

NHL Playoffs: You can’t even say “the impossible dream comes true,” who would dream this?! 
The famous calls of Al Michaels in Lake Placid are safe. Young athletes dream of winning gold medals. But NOBODY dreams of joining an expansion team in a city with no professional sports, and immediately carrying it to a conference or league championship. Not even on the radar. Managing a winning record was supposed to be impossible in this day and age. 

The unanimous “worst team in the league” sight unseen has played so well from the get-go, and grown so much in the process, that it’s reached the championship round in its sport in its debut season. Here are the key numbers from the Friday-Sunday sweep by the Vegas Golden Knights over the Winnipeg Jets. 

Friday’s Game 4: Vegas (-125) 3, Winnipeg 2 
Shots: Winnipeg 37, Vegas 28
Power Plays: Winnipeg 1/4, Vegas 1/2

Winnipeg threw everything it could at VGK. There was a stretch where the rink was so tilted toward the Vegas defensive zone that the Golden Knights couldn’t even try to ice the puck because it just would have rolled downhill back to them. But VGK weathered that storm to get within one win of the series. Holding serve was crucial because it meant just one more home victory would send VGK to the Stanley Cup finals. And, there was always a chance Winnipeg would be so demoralized that there wouldn’t be any fuel left in the Jets engines. 

Sunday’s Game Five: Vegas (plus 140) 2, Vegas 1 
Shots: Vegas 32, Winnipeg 32
Power Plays: Vegas 0/2, Winnipeg 0/4

It may have been fatigue. It may have been a loss of spirit. But, it was clear early on that Winnipeg couldn’t regain that frenzied form of the failed effort in Las Vegas. The zip just wasn’t there. Both teams are fast, but Vegas is quicker. And, that quickness helped the pre-series underdog chase down loose pucks in open space time and time again. It’s telling that shot counts were even despite the fact that the home team HAD to win while the road team didn’t. Vegas won that stat 24-19 in the last two periods while never playing from behind. 

While Vegas is a “Sin-derella” story (order T-shirts for you or a loved one by clicking here!), the Golden Knights aren’t playing like a long shot by any means. VGK is now 12-3 through three rounds against very legitimate competition. That includes two road wins in each series…and teams like Winnipeg, San Jose, and Los Angeles don’t just hand you playoff victories on their home ice. 

More information is coming out about sports book exposure on futures tickets. Doug Kezirian of ESPN tweeted out the top single ticket liability from a handful of Las Vegas sportsbooks

Westgate: a $400 ticket at 300/1 ($120K)
CG Technology: a $500 ticket at 200/1 ($100K)
South Point: a $400 ticket at 150/1 (60K)
Golden Nugget: a $250 ticket at 200/1 (50K)
William Hill: a $1,000 ticket at 50/1 (50K)

Jeff Sherman of the Westgate tweeted that his locale took 13 different tickets ranking from $10 to $60 on the Vegas Golden Knights at 500/1 before the season started. That $60 ticket alone would pay $30K. 

Nobody’s hoisted the Stanley Cup yet. VGK will face the winner of Tampa Bay-Washington. The pre-series favorite Lightning are now heavy favorites to advance after taking a 3-2 lead this past Saturday. 

Saturday’s Game 5: Tampa Bay (-160) 3, Washington 2 
Shots: Washington 30, Tampa Bay 22
Power Plays: Washington 0/0, Tampa Bay 0/1

It’s been Tampa Bay’s preference to play a bend-but-don’t-break style that concedes extra shots to its opponent in this series. Washington’s won shot counts in every game: 32-21, 37-35, 38-23, 38-20, and 30-22. Tampa Bay won scoreboard the last three games anyway, and is now positioned to close out a series with four straight victories…as they did vs. Boston in the prior round. 

Game 6 is Monday in Washington. The Caps are -120 with a total of 6 (Under -120). Tampa Bay would be at least a -160 favorite (possibly more) at home in a seventh game if it goes that far. Tampa Bay would then be a series favorite over VGK in a best-of-seven championship showdown. VGK would have home ice over Washington as a series favorite. (After we wrote that, we noticed just before deadline that Todd Dewey provided oddsmaker confirmation in a Sunday night article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal).  

NBA Playoffs: Cleveland, Golden State use extra prep time to engineer blowouts
Those extra days off created the illusion of drama. Ultimately, they only gave home favorites Cleveland and Golden State extra time to figure out how to express their dominance. Let’s quickly run the weekend numbers to see if they express series doom for Boston and Houston.

Saturday’s Game 3: Cleveland (-6.5) 116, Boston 86
2-point Pct: Boston 44%, Cleveland 48%
3-pointers: Boston 6/22, Cleveland 17/34 
Free Throws: Boston 22/28, Cleveland 25/30
Rebounds: Boston 34, Cleveland 45
Turnovers: Boston 15, Cleveland 14
Pace: 93.6 (for the series, 93.4, 93.2, 93.6)

The Celtics still lead Eastern Conference finals 2-1 in a series that’s on serve. But, this was a reminder of what Cleveland can do when it’s not playing halfhearted defense and clanking three-pointers off the rim. Well-rested Cleveland brought effort on both sides of the floor, and hit countless open looks against a Boston defense that took the night off after two big home wins. 

This is why Cleveland was a pricey series favorite. The Cavs have a higher ceiling because they have a shot to hit 15-plus treys in a game. Boston is less likely to do that, and has to bring peak energy to make up for what they lack in experienced playoff talent. 

Game 4 Tuesday will let us know if the Cavs have solved the riddle, or if the underdog Celtics just had a one-game lobotomy that will be rectified with more intense focus and effort. 

If both teams ever play defense in the same game, we could see a VERY low scoring affair. We’ve already had three Unders despite sporadic defense (191-201-202) with very stable pace factors (all within a tight four-tenths of a possession range).

Cleveland is currently -6.5, with a total of 206.5 in Game Four.

Sunday’s Game 3: Golden State (-8) 126, Houston 85
2-point Pct: Houston 46%, Golden State 58%
3-pointers: Houston 11/34, Golden State 13/32
Free Throws: Houston 10/13, Golden State 17/18
Rebounds: Houston 40, Golden State 49
Turnovers: Houston 19, Golden State 8
Pace: 95.1 (for the series, 98.4, 99.8, 95.1)

Third straight double-digit decision in the Western Conference finals. Golden State looks unbeatable when focused. Houston is strong enough to run through the Warriors when they’re not. Very difficult to see the Rockets rallying to win this series given that they’ll be steep dogs in every game at Oracle, and are far from a sure thing to win at home near pick-em. 

We’ve said it before (this year and last)…when Golden State comes out for blood, it shows up on defense. That’s often hidden from the mainstream media because of fast pace. You can see above that the Warriors forced 19 turnovers in this, the slowest game of the series so far. They did that while rarely fouling shooters. And, they held the Rockets below 50% inside the arc for the first time all series. 

Worst news of the evening for the Rockets and the eventual Eastern champ, Steph Curry started to look like his old self. He scored 35 points with only one turnover. A nice 5 of 12 on treys, and a stellar 8 of 11 on deuces.  

Pretty obvious that nobody’s touching this version of the Warriors. Six wins away from another championship. They can get there without peaking this hard any more. Game Four is Tuesday.

Preakness: Justified wins as big favorite, but wasn’t so dominant that Triple Crown is assured
Though Justified handled difficult conditions this past Saturday to win the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, his vulnerability at the finish might provide hope to contenders in the Belmont coming up in just less than three weeks. 

Justified held off hard charging Bravazo by just half a length at the finish. A few more strides and…who knows? The Belmont is the longest race of the three, and will feature many well-rested challengers poised to peak in New York. 

Final Preakness Payouts
Justify: $2.80 to win, $2.80 to place, $2.60 to show
Bravazo: $7.60 to place, $4.80 to show
Tenfold: $6.80 to show

Exacta: $27.40
Trifecta: $148.30

Big payout on the trifecta with longshots coming up late to challenge the lead. Our preview show that aired on TVG talked about potential big money opportunities with the trifecta even with such a heavy favorite priced to win. 

With a Triple Crown at stake, you can bet that VSIN will provide comprehensive coverage of the Belmont beginning in two week’s time. Can’t wait!

MLB: Our preseason “Magnificent Seven” still down about 20 betting units in composite this season
Everybody’s past the quarter mark of the 2018 Major League Baseball season now. Though, Cleveland is going to have a lot of make-up games after dealing with so much unfriendly weather. A lot of treading water last week (or getting flooded out!). Of the seven teams projected to win at least 90 games according to this past spring’s Regular Season Win Totals, only three are showing a profit for their backers. Here’s our weekly Monday update. 

NY Yankees 30-13…plus 9.5 units after a 2-1 week (bad weather)
Boston 32-15…plus 9 units after a 4-3 week
Houston 30-18…plus 3 units after a 4-2 week
Chicago Cubs 25-19…minus 3.5 units after a 4-3 week
Washington 24-21…minus 4.5 units after an 0-3 week (bad weather)
Cleveland 22-20…minus 12 units after a 2-4 week
LA Dodgers 20-26…minus 23.5 units after a 4-2 week

Because of the Dodgers’ debacle, the composite is still down more than 20 units. Finally, a pulse for Dodger blue this past week though, with a winning mark in six road games. 

This week’s head-to-head series in the Magnificent Seven
Cleveland (22-20) at the Chicago Cubs (21-16) (begins Tuesday)
Houston (30-18) at Cleveland (22-20) (begins Thursday)

Brutal schedule stretch for the Tribe, who follow up this past weekend’s series in Houston with a road battle with the Cubs, and then a return engagement with the defending World Champions. 

It’s great to see so many other teams continue their success deep into May. Some April “flukes” turned out not to be flukes. That’s creating entertaining schedules each week even if many of the projected powers aren’t playing to expectations. Here’s a listing of this week’s other matchups pairing teams who currently have winning records…

Early Week (current record in parenthesis)
Atlanta (28-17) at Philadelphia (26-18)
Arizona (25-21) at Milwaukee (28-19)
Seattle (27-19) at Oakland (25-22) (begins Tuesday)

Unfortunately, the Arizona Diamondbacks have hit a recent roadblock. Maybe they were an April fluke. Arizona is 1-10 its last 11 games, losing three this past weekend in New York against the Mets, after dropping two of three at home to Milwaukee, and getting swept in a four-game home series against Washington. That slump puts the disappointing Dodgers back in striking distance for the NL West crown with so many games left to play.

Weekend
NY Mets (23-19) at Milwaukee (28-19) (begins Thursday)
St. Louis (25-19) at Pittsburgh (26-20) (begins Friday)
LA Angels (26-21) at the NY Yankees (30-13) (begins Friday)
Atlanta (28-17) at Boston (32-15) (begins Friday)
Arizona (25-21) at Oakland (25-22) (begins Friday)

San Francisco is currently right at .500, and will visit Houston and the Chicago Cubs this week. Tough task…but some wins would put San Francisco into the mix for series matching winning teams against each other. 

MLB: Updating the “Sunday Under” tendency with get-away days
Another Sunday heavy with Unders, as nine of 15 games stayed below their market scoring projection. We mentioned two weeks ago that some sharps like looking at Unders whenever at least one team has a plane to catch after the game. On Sundays, that’s every road team and many home teams. 

Sunday Totals Records
May 6: 4-10-1 to the Under
May 13: 5-10 to the Under
May 20: 6-9 to the Under

“Sundays in May” Record: 15-29-1 to the Under

Something to consider if you’re a weekend warrior. Many managers also rest key hitters in day games after night games, or at the end of a road trip (particularly if the platoon edge is working against that hitter). Be sure you can make the case any Over bet is going to trump this dynamic before you ask for a high scoring game. If you were leaning to an Under because of pitching quality, might be worth elevating that from a lean to a bet.  

(Quick follow-up on our longstanding reminder about Minute Maid being a pitchers’ park to a degree not necessarily recognized by the media and betting markets…Sunday night’s 3-1 win for Houston over Cleveland moved the Over/Under performance this season to 7-17-1 to the Under at that site.)

WNBA: Las Vegas Aces cracked in Connecticut, likely to struggle all season
The new WNBA team in Las Vegas was hoping to make a splash. Going to be tough with all the excitement right now about the Golden Knights. Just wait until the Oakland Raiders move into their stadium that’s being built as we speak. 

Making it tougher…the Las Vegas Aces may be as bad as hockey fans were afraid VGK were going to be. Las Vegas was a huge 19-point underdog on the road against Connecticut, meaning the Aces will be power-rated WAY below the WNBA field. Worse, the Aces lost by 36 points! They missed very low expectations by a mile. 

We’ll need more connectivity before we can make an estimate of “market” Power Ratings in this sport. We’ll aim for early next week. For now, a quick look at results from the opening weekend, starting with the disappointing result for LVA. 

Sunday’s Results
Connecticut (-19) beat Las Vegas 101-65
Washington (-12.5) only beat Indiana 82-75
Dallas (-3.5) beat Atlanta 101-78
Los Angeles (plus 7.5) won at Minnesota 77-76
Chicago (plus 6.5) upset New York 80-76 as a home dog
Phoenix (plus 2.5) won at Seattle 87-82

Los Angeles-Minnesota was the game fans were waiting for. Minnesota waited a bit too long to get focused! Big win for the Sparks, keyed by a 25-11 third quarter. 

Friday and Saturday Results
Phoenix (-5.5) beat Dallas 86-78
Chicago (plus 2) won at Indiana 82-64

Back tomorrow with key stats from Monday playoff action featuring Game 4 of Boston-Cleveland in the NBA, and Game Six of Tampa Bay/Washington in the NHL. 

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