The NHL season is down to two teams, and fans are bracing themselves for an historic Stanley Cup finals. The most remarkable story in American sports history, the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, are in the Stanley Cup finals in their inaugural season. The action starts May 28, when the Knights host the Washington Capitals in Las Vegas.
Stanley Cup Odds
Las Vegas will be favored in their first-ever Stanley Cup final appearance, opening as a -150 favorite according to Jeff Sherman. The Capitals are the underdog at +135.
Stanley Cup odds are also available for the series. Once again, in their first appearance, the Las Vegas Golden Knights are favored to hoist the Stanley Cup. They are a -160 favorite according to Sherman, with the Capitals valued at +140.
Heading into Wednesday night’s Game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning, you could still place futures wagers on the winner of the Stanley Cup. As the only team that secured their place in the final, Vegas had the best Stanley Cup odds at -101, according to OddsShark. Tampa Bay had the next-best odds at +228, while the Caps trailed at +330.
Why the discrepancy between the teams? The biggest swing factor is the potential home-ice advantage. Las Vegas is 6-1 during the postseason at T-Mobile Arena, and oddsmakers think it would be tougher for Washington should they face a Game 7 in Vegas. Alternatively, as the top seed and guaranteed a Game 7 at home, Tampa has slightly better Stanley Cup odds should they advance.
Stanley Cup Game One Pick
I cannot and will not pick against the greatest story in American sports history. Look at this absolutely preposterous timeline:
Vegas is great at home, and they’ve closed three playoff series on the road. They have a reliable scorer in William Karlsson, and arguably the hottest goaltender in the postseason.
And he is one heck of a goaltender. Marc-Andre Fleury is going for a third straight Stanley Cup finals win, and is looking to continue his career of playing spoiler to NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin. He enters the final series with four straight games of 30-plus saves.
The former first overall pick in Pittsburgh has closed the door on the Capitals in the playoffs on two separate occasions, including two outstanding game seven performances. After winning back-to-back cups with the Penguins, Fleury fell into the lap of Las Vegas during the expansion draft when Pittsburgh decided to protect the younger Matt Murray.
The Capitals have the most postseason experience of any team in the playoffs, playing postseason hockey in 11 of the past 12 seasons. Theoretically, they shouldn’t be fazed by the lights of Vegas. Washington is 7-2 away from home in the postseason, including winning three road games over the Penguins. And then, of course, a convincing 4-0 victory in Tampa to secure their first Stanley Cup final appearance since the 1997-98 season.
The Capitals will try to win the series by playing physical hockey and winning on special teams. They’ve had decent success on the power play in the postseason, but Vegas has been excellent at killing penalties throughout the postseason. Evgeny Kuznetsov has been the best offensive player in the NHL during the playoffs, and he’ll need to stay hot for the Caps to swing momentum in their favor.
The bottom line is this: Las Vegas is not supposed to be here. Washington should have been here by now. The NHL Playoffs will forever and always belong to the team with the hottest goaltender. If Fleury can play like he did over the final four games against Winnipeg, the Golden Knights will celebrate their inaugural season with a Las Vegas-style parade.
Prediction: Knights in six