Game 2 of the semifinal series between the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens is on tap tonight.
Let's get to it.
These oddsmakers are putting out some very, very tempting lines.
If this was the regular season, I'd open up BetMGM, look at the +220 Montreal is getting on the money line, punch that ticket, and never look back.
But this isn't the regular season. It's the playoffs, where the Vegas Golden Knights took an emphatic 1-0 series lead in Game 1, thanks to a masterclass 4-1 victory.
I came to a realization while watching Game 1: the Montreal Canadiens are the discount version of the Knights.
And don't misunderstand me — that is a compliment. The Habs' strength lies in their physical, deep forward group, their versatile blue line, and their elite goaltender — just like the Knights.
Unfortunately for the bleu-blanc-et-rouge, everything they do, the Knights do better.
Consider that, in Game 1, Montreal won the faceoff battle, yet could barely get anything going offensively against the ferocious Vegas forecheck that has dominated throughout these playoffs (see their utter dismantling of the Colorado Avalanche). Vegas' stifling defense combined with Marc-Andre Fleury's otherworldly play in net has earned them favorite status — but are they too much of a favorite?
-275 is some heavy chalk. It's rare to see such a massive favorite in hockey (THE SPORT IS PLAYED ON ICE), but in this case, it might be warranted. Vegas' defense has not only stopped opponent scoring chances, but it's also been playing a key part offensively. Three Vegas defensemen scored a goal in Game 1; when your blue line can lift the offensive load while simultaneously limiting your opponent's offense, you're probably going to win.
We also shouldn't ignore the intangibles surrounding this series. This will be just the second time Montreal has been stateside for a game in months. It's also just the second time it'll been surrounded by fans in months. Vegas has not lost at home since the T-Mobile Area returned to 100 percent fan capacity (when will variance strike?). It's kind of hard to believe that Montreal will suddenly be acclimated to the shell-shock of all these changes after a single game — especially not in the playoffs.
It's not like Montreal is dead in the water for this series, however. It's 4-1 against the spread in its last 10 games, and it's not really a mistake-prone team. Their style of hockey is one that brings success (remember how they started the regular season?), but it's a style that, if Game 1 is any indication, won't help much against Vegas, especially when the Habs' offense hasn't really terrified anyone lately.
It's not really in my nature to pass up on such heavy juice, but I don't think Montreal wins Game 2 at Vegas. Maybe the Habs steal a win in Canada, or maybe they finally break Vegas' home winning streak, but I don't see that happening in Game 2. Another lopsided, albeit relatively low-scoring, victory should be in the cards for the Golden Knights here.
Before picking a side, I initially considered an OVER play here, as I believe Montreal has suffered from some tough puck luck while, on the flip side, it's only a matter of time for Vegas' forwards to explode. That said, both teams have limited penalties and the Habs aren't exactly a "Shoot first, ask questions later" team.
Oh, and that damn 5 total. It's just my luck I'm surrounded by these 5 totals during these playoffs. *sigh*
Pick: Vegas Golden Knights -1.5 (+105)