The Vancouver Canucks have to recover in short order from a series-opening 5-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights to rebound and even the series in Tuesday's Game 2.
It's understandable that the Canucks would come out flat after knocking off the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blues in the first round. However, it's going to take an extraordinary effort to rally versus Vegas, who's lost just once since the NHL restart.
Continue reading for abe Insights' betting preview for this late-night face-off, featuring a breakdown of the primary betting lines, listings of the best odds available at publication, stats that should help determine the outcome of Game 2 and more.
Date: Tuesday, August 25
Time: 9:45 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Canucks 34%; Golden Knights 68%
Spread: VAN +1.5 (-135); VGS -1.5 (+125)
Moneyline: VAN +190; VGS -210
The Golden Knights made two bold moves during the season. They fired head coach Gerard Gallant in favor of Peter DeBoer, and traded for goalie Robin Lehner. Both gambles have paid huge dividends, and Lehner is 6-1 in the playoffs with a 2.10 GAA.
With how good Vegas is offensively and how well Lehner is playing, an immense amount of pressure is on Vancouver netminder Jacob Markstrom. He got blitzed in Game 1, conceding five goals on 34 shots before being pulled. Markstrom must be brilliant for the 'Nucks to have a chance in this series.
35.5 vs. 25.3: The Knights allow more than 10 fewer shots per contest than Vancouver, which obviously presents a huge problem for the underdogs. Vegas had the edge here 39-26 in Game 1, so it doesn't look like this trend is going to change right now.
87.0 vs. 80.0: Following the All-Star break, these Knights had a horrendous penalty killing percentage of 66.7%. They've vastly improved since the restart to 87%, which thwarts a potentially huge advantage the Canucks could've had. The second figure is Vancouver's postseason penalty kill rate, matching its post-All-Star break number.
55 vs. 25: Another reason the 'Nucks are projected to lose is their NHL-high minor penalty minutes in these playoffs. Meanwhile, the Knights boast the lowest total among teams still alive — and gave Vancouver only one Game 1 power play chance.
Not much to like about the Canucks' makeup and their chances to come back, but credit them for making it this far. They got shut out 3-0 by Minnesota in the first qualifier round fixture, yet proceeded to win five in a row before losing Game 3 to St. Louis in overtime.
Getting off the mat against the Golden Knights is another matter entirely, though, despite the admirable resilience Vancouver has shown. The Pacific Division champions cruised through round-robin play to earn the No. 1 seed, and in their short franchise history, know little else but raging success.
Vegas forward Max Pacioretty led his team in goals during the regular season with 34, and even as the Knights had a magnificent to the playoffs, he was out injured. Although Pacioretty went scoreless in his first three appearances back, he's lit the lamp in each of the last two contests.
In addition to boasting a strong, deep attack at forward, it certainly helps when Vegas has a stud like defenseman Shea Theodore manning the blue line who can contribute so much offensively. Theodore has four goals and five assists this postseason, but the Canucks have a precocious defender in Quinn Hughes who has a goal and nine assists of his own.
Hughes has been strong enough as a scoring catalyst. Where Vancouver really needs him is in the defensive zone, stepping up to block shots to make Markstrom's job easier and to outplay Theodore individually.
No favorite is playing better hockey than the Knights, so Vegas' spread is the way most bets will go. However, the Canucks were counted out in Game 5 against the Blues after losing two straight and went on to close out the series, so bettors should hedge with them and push more action to Vancouver's moneyline.
That standard goal total seems too low for clubs that are this explosive offensively. With the 'Nucks lackluster defense letting too many shots through and the Knights almost hitting the Over on their own in the opener, action is bound to skew heavily to the Over.
Note: Odds current as of 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday, August 25.
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