The Vegas Golden Knights finished six points ahead of the Dallas Stars for third in the Western Conference this season, but both clubs have a chance to claim higher playoff seeds beginning with Monday's round-robin clash.
It's the first of three contests in a rotating schedule of opponents for each NHL conference's top four teams. At the end of the brief round-robin tournament, the final seeds will be decided, so Vegas could well be below Dallas despite the superior 2019-20 campaign.
To get up to speed on these top-flight teams before the puck drops, read on for the best available odds, wagers analysis and key statistics for Stars-Knights as part of abe Insights' betting preview.
Date: Monday, August 3
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NHL Network
Implied Probabilities: Stars 45%; Golden Knights 57%
Spread: DAL +1.5 (-230); VGS -1.5 (+210)
Moneyline: DAL +120; VGS -130
The goalie situation should be fascinating as Robin Lehner prepares to start opposite massive Stars crease guarder Ben Bishop. It's a slight surprise to see Lehner get the nod over Marc-Andre Fleury, who's no stranger to the playoff stage, having won three Stanley Cup titles in Pittsburgh.
Bishop towers between the pipes at 6-foot-7 and has surprising agility for a man his size. That's translated to a 2.32 career GAA, although he's been even better in the three years he's appeared in the playoffs. His task will be easier since leading Knights scorer Max Pacioretty won't play due to an undisclosed injury.
72.4 vs. 66.7: These are the rather awful penalty-killing percentages since the All-Star break for Dallas and Vegas respectively. The Stars rank 28th, and only Ottawa was worse than the Knights.
.918 vs. .886: Considering how large special teams is likely to loom given the poor defense of both clubs, it's worth noting Lehner's elite power play save percentage. He ranks tied for first among players with 30 starts or more, while Bishop is 12th.
4.56 vs. 3.66: Between the starting goaltenders, though, Lehner is a little more susceptible to yielding second-chance scoring opportunities than Bishop. These stats reflect percentage of saves that result in rebounds. Bishop is eighth among goalies with 30-plus starts, per MoneyPuck.com.
Prior to the pandemic, the Knights were really hitting their stride in winning 11 of 13 games. They rolled the dice in a big way by firing head coach Gerard Gallant in the middle of January, with Peter DeBoer taking over. Gallant guided Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final in the franchise's maiden year, and followed that with a playoff berth.
Expectations are evidently high in the City of Lights, but to his credit, DeBoer delivered and has had the Knights peaking at the right time. Swinging the trade for Lehner was a bold move, too, but he's been excellent in his limited action, with a 3-0 record and 1.67 GAA since arriving from Chicago.
Vegas and Dallas split the season series one apiece, but the Knights had Malcolm Subban in goal for both those outings. The key for the Knights will be avoiding penalties and not putting undue pressure on their suspect defense with the man disadvantage.
Not having Pacioretty available hurts, but Vegas still has a strong group of top forwards in Mark Stone, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault. Dallas' top offensive players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have disappointed this season, leading an attack that tied for the third-lowest goal total in all of hockey and netted just 2.58 goals per game.
One more factor to definitely make note of: the Stars can't play much worse on offense than they have all year, and a long break may have been just what they needed in the midst of reeling toward the finish on a six-game losing streak.
But until Dallas proves it can provide adequate support for Bishop, don't hold your breath on bettors siding with the underdogs. Expect Vegas' spread and moneyline to be really popular wagers at sportsbooks, and for Pacioretty's absence and the Stars' general offensive woes to spur sentiment toward the Under goal total.
Note: Odds current as of 12:45 p.m. ET on Monday, August 3.
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