Being up three games to one has often been a dangerous series lead for the Washington Capitals, which might be why the Vegas Golden Knights are favored to stave off elimination in the Stanley Cup final on Thursday night.
While Washington is one win away from its first Stanley Cup, the Golden Knights are a -145 moneyline favorite and the Capitals come back as a +125 underdog with a 5.5-goal total for Game 5 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
In the league’s history, teams that have been up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final have gone on to win the championship 32 of 33 times, including 31 in a row.
More in the here and now, Washington is 9-3 in 12 away games during the playoffs. Three of the four teams that had 10 road wins in a single postseason have won the Stanley Cup. Vegas is 7-3 in its last 10 home games as moneyline favorite of -135 to -200, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.
The Capitals franchise has the dubious distinction of having lost five playoff series after leading 3-1, which is an NHL record. However, Washington’s top three centers, Evgeny Kuznetsov (playoff-leading 31 points), Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller, have generally outplayed their Vegas counterparts in this series.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby has a 2.13 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in the playoffs, with two shutouts.
The basis for backing the Golden Knights is that they have lacked puck luck, never more so than when left wing James Neal hit the post with a wide-open net when Game 4 was still scoreless on Monday. Top-line center William Karlsson, who did not practice on Wednesday, has been struggling, with only five recorded shots in four games during the Stanley Cup final and only three points in Vegas’ last seven games, well below his averages for the full season.
Vegas’ second and third lines, centered by Erik Haula and Cody Eakin, haven’t been able to cover for the dip in production from the Karlsson line.
Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has a 2.15 goals-against average and .929 save percentage with four shutouts in the playoffs. Fleury’s average has risen by almost half a goal during the last four games.
While it’s a small sample, the Capitals have had the special teams edge, as their power play is 4-for-12 (33.3 per cent) in the series. The Golden Knights are 2-for-12 (16.7 per cent).
The total has gone under in 14 of the Capitals’ last 18 games against Pacific Division teams. The total has also gone under in seven of the Golden Knights’ last seven games against Eastern Conference teams.
If Vegas wins and avoids elimination, the Capitals will host Game 6 on Sunday.
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