The Vancouver Canucks have stunned the hockey world with their rousing rally against the No. 1-seeded Vegas Golden Knights, forcing Friday's improbable conference semifinals Game 7.
Vegas has quickly ascended to the NHL's elite despite such a young franchise history. Blowing a 3-1 lead would be devastating for morale going forward, especially if the offense doesn't step up following two losses in which the Golden Knights managed only one goal.
Can Vancouver feed off the momentum of Thursday's 4-0 romp, or will Vegas wake up in time to advance? In abe Insights' betting preview, you'll find analysis of the main lines, listings of the best odds available, stats to consider and more for this fascinating face-off.
Date: Friday, September 4
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Canucks 33%; Golden Knights 68%
Spread: VAN +1.5 (-130); VGS -1.5 (+120)
Moneyline: VAN +200; VGS -215
A groin injury to Canucks starting goalie Jacob Markstrom thrust rookie Thatcher Demko into duty, and has he ever taken advantage of his time on the ice. Demko has stopped 90 of 91 shots in two straight wins, almost single-handedly giving Vancouver life with his brilliance between the pipes.
The Golden Knights are showing their overall superiority by prevailing in puck possession and outshooting Vancouver, but they can't seem to get past Demko. Netminder Robin Lehner has had a roller-coaster series, with two shutouts and three losses that all featured a relatively light workload.
.922 vs. .895: That first figure is Lehner's playoff power play save percentage, which is third among goalies (minimum eight starts). The second number is Demko's PP Sv% from the regular season. He was seventh among keepers who'd played 27 or more games.
22.69 vs. -15.93: Per MoneyPuck.com, these are the 5-on-5 playoff Corsi ratios per 60 minutes for Vegas and Vancouver respectively. The Knights outshoot opponents in those situations by over seven per period, while the 'Nucks obviously lag way behind here.
1.46 vs. -0.79: To springboard off that last stat matchup, Vegas also has the edge in expected goals for-and-against ratio per 60 minutes. The fact that Vancouver is in a deficit in this category further underscores how magnificent Demko has been of late.
We need to put Demko's performance in greater historical context. To continue the numbers breakdown from Game 6 alone, he set the record for most saves (48) in a playoff shutout by a rookie. That also happens to be the most saves in regulation during a postseason shutout in NHL history, per Sportsnet Stats.
For a young man who was barely above .500 in the regular season (13-10-2) and had a GAA above three, this is an extraordinary showing to say the least. Not to mention, it's not as if Vegas has a lackluster offense. The Knights attack is arguably the best in hockey when they're on.
Given the volume of shots Demko has faced, it's not as if the West favorites are wanting for quality scoring chances. They simply can't jam it past Vancouver's precocious goaltender, and it must be wildly frustrating. Vegas has also come up empty on seven power play chances in the previous two defeats.
Is it at all possible Demko can keep this going? What he's doing is truly unprecedented given the number of shots he's stopped and how much more difficult the Canucks are making his job by failing to possess the puck for longer periods of time.
The good news for Vancouver is the offense is making the most of its scoring opportunities, taking a quality-over-quantity approach. It's a question of whether the Golden Knights will be gassed on the second leg of a back-to-back to challenge Demko as often as they have, or if it'll finally lead to an explosion of goals to dash the 'Nucks' comeback hopes.
Oddsmakers still seem to trust Vegas to break through and prove its worth as the West's best. Because the Knights' home state is, well, where betting has long existed and due to their roster superiority, look for bets to skew toward Vegas' spread and moneyline.
To trust or not to trust recency bias when it comes to the goal total? Both these offenses are capable of scoring in bunches, and it stands to reason the Golden Knights are due for a big showing. Thus, look for the majority of wagers to go to the Over goal total.
Note: Odds current as of 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday, September 4.
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