Oddsmakers are leaning toward the Vegas Golden Knights and star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury making history, even though the track record for first-time Stanley Cup finalists is not overly rosy.
The Golden Knights, who have made the final as an expansion team, are -135 favorites with the Washington Capitals and superstar Alex Ovechkin coming back at +115 on the latest odds to win the Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Vegas has home-ice advantage for the best-of-seven series, which begins with Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena on Monday. For what it might be worth, the last three first-time finalists to represent the Western Conference – 2017 Nashville Predators, 2016 San Jose Sharks and 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks – each lost.
Washington will not have home-ice advantage, but they are 8-2 on the road in the playoffs. A four-day layoff might also help negate any energy advantage Vegas has from playing four fewer games during the first three rounds.
Along with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Capitals have re-integrated center Nicklas Backstrom into their lineup to diversify their offense. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby has a 2.04 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in the playoffs after posting shutouts in each of the final two games of Washington’s series win against Tampa Bay.
The main question with the Golden Knights is whether Fleury, the favorite on the Conn Smythe Trophy odds, and their top-six forwards, including the William Karlsson-Jonathan Marchessault-Reilly Smith top line, can sustain their efficiency from the first three rounds. Picking against them would mean picking against Fleury and the 1.68 goals-against average and .947 save percentage he has in the playoffs.
The Golden Knights top forwards also have a 12.7 percent shooting percentage in the playoffs, and anything well above 10% is usually unsustainable. That said, coach Gerard Gallant has developed a fast, tenacious team. That assertiveness comes out the most on the road, where the total has gone under in five of the Golden Knights’ eight away games in the playoffs, with two pushes.
Vegas is 6-1 at home in the playoffs, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, although puck-line bettors have probably noticed four wins were by a single goal.
The total has gone over in nine of the Capitals’ last 15 road games against Western teams. The total has gone over in nine of the Golden Knights’ last 16 home games against Eastern teams.
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