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Stanley Cup opening act is a hit in Vegas

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Marc-Andre Fleury (29) celebrates with left wing Tomas Nosek, who scored two goals.
© USA Today Sports Images

Stanley Cup sizzler sees Vegas beat Washington 6-4 in a series opener that never slowed down! Golden State sleepwalks through another first half, but coasts past Houston into the NBA Finals. Your home for championship coverage from a sports betting perspective is VSiN City!

NHL Stanley Cup Finals: Golden Knights cap off see-saw battle with empty-netter to take Round 1
If you missed the series opener…think about the frantic final few minutes of a one-goal game involving two elite teams giving it their all. Now, imagine all 60 minutes played at something approaching that intensity. Frantic, frenzied, back-and-forth. Vegas led 1-0, Washington led 2-1, Vegas led 3-2, Washington led 4-3, and Vegas led 5-4 before adding an empty-netter with 2.7 seconds left. 

Vegas (-155) 6, Washington 4 
Shots: Washington 28, Vegas 34
Power Plays: Washington 0/1, Vegas 1/1

It was easy to see why Washington enjoyed such good road results in earlier playoff rounds. The Caps came to play, and controlled significant stretches of the game. But Vegas is a legitimate series favorite with scoring threats up and down the roster. VGK’s fourth line scored three of Monday’s six goals. 

Washington isn’t used to dealing with this intense an onslaught. Vegas had already launched 25 shots by the end of the second period. Tampa Bay had fewer than that in four of seven full games in the Eastern Finals. The final Game 1 tally of 34 shots for VGK was topped by Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh only once apiece in the prior two rounds. 

Vegas can’t get complacent. One win is just a hold of serve in a series that promises to thrill for several more days. 

From a betting perspective, winners tonight for backers of Vegas (from an opener of -140 up to as high as -165 of -170 in spots), Vegas -1.5 goals on the puck line thanks to the empty netter (around plus 170 depending on the locale), and Over 5.5…which got there before the halfway mark when Washington tied it 3-3 at 8:29 of the second period. And, obviously, holders of futures tickets for VGK to win the title are one step closer to those big payoffs.

Game 2 will likely be priced in similar fashion to Game 1 in terms of team side options. Though Washington will get sharp support in the bounce-back position, locals in Nevada will likely keep supporting the Golden Knights with a 13-3 record up so far through 16 playoff games. 

The total won’t be priced with Under juice again for a while. Monday closed at 5.5 goals with the Under a -125 or -130 favorite. First numbers up suggest the Over will be a favorite at the same 5.5 goals Wednesday. Sports books probably aren’t keen on bringing the full six into play in a Stanley Cup Finals game. If G1’s frenzied pace is a sign of things to come, they might have to. 

NBA Western Finals: Golden State falls way behind again, wins the third quarter big again, and advances to the NBA Finals again
If Houston hadn’t just blown a big first half lead Saturday night against the Warriors before getting crushed in the second half, there might have been more excitement about Houston’s early run-out Monday evening. If the Rockets could just survive the third quarter…

Third Quarter: Golden State 33, Houston 15

So much for that. A fatigued Houston side was even colder on 3-pointers than Boston was the night before vs. Cleveland. The fourth quarter was a formality featuring the inevitable (which became the right word the moment Chris Paul injured his hamstring).

Golden State (-6) 101, Houston 92
2-point Pct: Golden State 56%, Houston 63%
3-pointers: Golden State 16/39, Houston 7/44
Free Throws: Golden State 7/14, Houston 13/22
Rebounds: Golden State 42, Houston 44
Turnovers: Golden State 16, Houston 12
Pace: 90.1 (for the series, 98.4, 99.8, 95.1, 91.4, 94, 94.5, 90.1)  

The 3-point rout was ultimately the story of the game. Golden State was plus 27 points from long range in an affair it only won by nine. Houston kept launching and clanking long after its legs went. 

One of the hidden kickers for Golden State’s generational greatness is that the Warriors don’t play tired. They play overconfident sometimes. They play disinterested sometimes. They can’t believe how many bad shots Kevin Durant puts up sometimes. But the Warriors have enough depth to avoid running out of gas. They may not need a finishing kick to win a full-season marathon if others are falling by the wayside.

Another night, another NBA Under. Based on both recently-concluded seven-game series, and all the talk on NBA twitter of how “unpredictable” the 3-point collapses were for Boston and Houston, it’s clear that the quants still haven’t fully mastered the impact of fatigue on long range shooting. Quants are an important market influence on totals. 

*Golden State/Houston went 1-6 to the Under, with the last five games staying Under by 25.5, 40, 27.5, 13.5, and 15 points. How badly can a series be misread?! The last five sums were 211, 187, 192, 201, and 193, against market totals that started around 225 and only dropped to 214.5 and 208 in the last two games. Might have taken an 11-game series to get where they needed to be. 

*Cleveland/Boston went 2-5 to the Under, with the last two Unders missing the market by 25 and 30.5 points. 

Rolling medians in pace factor from Game 3 through Game 7 in both series…
*Golden State/Houston: 98.4, 95.1, 94.0, 94.0 (with the finale at 90.1)
*Cleveland/Boston: 93.4, 93.6, 94.0, 94.0, 89.7 (with the finale at 86.0)

Well below regular season norms for that foursome. Much slower games, combined with the impact of sustained fatigue on long-range shooting. 

Late Monday, Jeff Sherman of the Westgate tweeted that Golden State opened -12 over Cleveland in Game 1 with an Over/Under of 216.5. On the series price, Golden State was -1200, Cleveland plus 750.

MLB Memorial Day: Houston beats NY Yankees, Milwaukee makes a statement in NL Central
A few games to talk about from a heavy Monday schedule. Let’s start in the American League where two teams from our preseason “Magnificent Seven” squared off in the Bronx. 

Houston (pick-em) 5, NY Yankees 1
Total Bases Plus Walks: Houston 16, New York 10
Starting Pitchers: Verlander 6.2 IP, 1 ER, German 5.2 IP, 3 ER
Bullpen: Houston 2.1 IP, 0 ER, New York 3.1 IP, 1 ER

Another great outing for Justin Verlander. He’s now 7-2 this season with an ERA of 1.11 and a WHIP of 0.71. He doesn’t have to pitch that great to make a run at 20 wins given the run support he’s likely to enjoy through the season. Domingo German falls to 0-3 with an ERA of 5.45. Houston moves to 35-20 for the season, still just one game ahead of recently red-hot Seattle, who beat Texas 2-1. New York has cooled off of late, but is still 33-17 on the season. The AL East race between the Yankees and Red Sox is going to be something. Could a Wildcard team win 100 games? 

(If you’re new to VSiN City, we use “total bases plus walks” offensively to flesh out the final score. You can just divide those numbers by four for a super-simplified “runs created” estimate, as it takes four bases to make a run. Do that with full season data and you’ll be surprised how accurately dividing by four works out.)

The rest of this series…
Tuesday: Morton vs. Sabathia (Morton -120 and 9 on the early line)
Wednesday: Keuchel vs. Severino (on ESPN)

Definitely a must-see game in the series finale Wednesday night. 

Chicago Cubs (pick-em) 7, Pittsburgh 0
Total Bases Plus Walks: Chicago 23, Pittsburgh 2
Starting Pitchers: Montgomery 5.2 IP, 0 ER, Kuhl 6 IP, 1 ER
Bullpen: Chicago 3.1 IP, 0 ER, Pittsburgh 3 IP, 5 ER

That’s right, 23-2 in offensive bases! Pittsburgh managed two singles off Chicago pitching, even though it wasn’t an ace on the mound. It was the first win of the year for Montgomery in his first start. Cubs move to 28-22 as they try to chase down Milwaukee from behind. Pittsburgh falls to 28-25. Losses to teams ahead of you in the divisional standings are doubly damaging. 

The rest of this series…
Tuesday: Lester vs. Kingham (Lester -115 and 8 on the early line)
Wednesday: Hendricks vs. Musgrove

Definitely a sense of urgency this week for the Bucs, who follow up this series with St. Louis. 

Milwaukee (pick-em) 8, St. Louis 4
Total Bases Plus Walks: St. Louis 14, Milwaukee 23
Starting Pitchers: Weaver 4 IP, 4 ER, Suter 5 IP, 3 ER
Bullpen: St. Louis 4 IP, 4 ER, Milwaukee 4 IP, 0 ER

Solid stuff from the Brew crew again. You’ll note that a lot of the divisional leaders are getting consistently solid bullpen work. Time will tell if too many of them are asking too much of the guys pitching innings six through nine. Luke Weaver falls to 3-5 for the Cardinals, as his ERA rises to 4.63. Brent Suter has the same ERA of 4.63, but is 5-3 for the season. 

Milwaukee is a stellar 35-20, still 4.5 ahead of the now second-place Cubs. St. Louis falls to 28-23, barely behind the Cubs and ahead of the Pirates. 

The rest of this series…
Tuesday: Wacha vs. Davies (Wacha -108 and 9 on the early line)
Wednesday: Reyes vs. Guerra

If you’re just now catching up with baseball, it would serve you well to pay some attention to the Brewers. The market has been underestimating them in the extreme, as Milwaukee is now up almost 17 betting units on the season. But, if they’re due to crash and burn, you’ll want to be ready to anticipate that when it comes. 

MLB Analytics: Study shows home run totals way below expectations this season
We’ve mentioned a few times that home run totals have fallen this season. Many assume that’s because a prior adjustment to the construction of baseballs that led to a temporarily enormous surge has been reversed. Results of a study that was posted online today are consistent with that assumption.

You can click here to read the full article. The gist is that home run totals are down even though there has been an increase this season in launch angles and launch velocities. Batters are following the recent trend of TRYING to hit home runs by swinging harder on more of an upward plane. It’s WORKING in terms of the moment of impact…but the ball isn’t flying as far this year as it was the prior two seasons because of a drag that’s reduced carry. 

The author estimates that roughly 500 fewer home runs have been hit that “should” have cleared the fence based on how far balls had been carrying with those launch angles and velocities with what had been a controversial baseball.

Something for you to think about as you handicap. Home runs have by no means disappeared. But if you’ve been losing a lot of Over bets…or failing to find success with teams you expected to light up the scoreboard this season…this brief article may help point you in a different direction. 

Back with you Wednesday to preview Game 2 of Vegas/Washington in the NHL. On Thursday, we’ll preview the NBA Finals. More room now for MLB to jump into the daily mix. We’re also very close to posting our first set of estimated “market” Power Ratings for the WNBA. And, World Cup soccer will be here before you know it. Always something to bet in VSiN City!

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