Long shots no longer, the Golden Knights are again the NHL betting darlings entering their second season.
Vegas, which was a 500-1 shot to win the Stanley Cup in its inaugural season, is the 8-1 co-favorite at William Hill sports book to win the 2018-19 title and the 8-1 second choice at the Westgate sports book.
In losing to the Capitals in five games in the Stanley Cup Final, the Knights fell just short in their quest to write arguably the most incredible underdog tale in pro sports history. But Vegas already has made history this year at the betting windows, where its regular-season point total opened at 96½ at the Westgate before soaring to 101½.
“This is the largest decision we’ve ever had on any type of season win or point total on any of the four major pro sports,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “Even to win the Stanley Cup, we were at 12-1 and now we’re down to 8-1. And it’s not small stuff. We’re getting a lot of four-figure wagers supporting the Knights.”
The Knights’ point total increased to 98½ after they acquired high-scoring forward Max Pacioretty and then shot up from there before settling at 100½.
“The majority of what we’ve taken was at 98½, 99½, 100½ and even at 101½, too,” Sherman said. “I really like the addition of Pacioretty. It just seems like his style of play is going to fit in with the group really well.”
The Knights went 51-24-7 last season to finish with 109 points, but Las Vegas oddsmakers expect some regression this season.
“Achieving last year’s point total might be a little difficult,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “Just because they’re not going to take teams by surprise and it’s always difficult to repeat.
“But they have a legitimate chance to win the Cup. They have a talented team with one of the best home-ice advantages in the league. I expect them to be right there in the Western Conference when everything is said and done.”
Vegas is the 4-1 favorite to win the West and the 7-4 favorite to win the Pacific Division. The Sharks are the 9-4 second choice to win the division after adding two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson.
“With the moves Vegas and San Jose made, you see separation in the Pacific Division with those two standing out on top,” Sherman said.
Sharks and Jets
Handicapper Alex Smith likes the Sharks to go over their point total (101½) and win the division.
“That’s the team Knights fans have to be worried about. San Jose is loaded now with Karlsson,” said Smith (AxSmithSports.com). “They have the best top four defensemen in the league. If they can score goals, they’re going to be untouchable because they’re not going to allow more than one or two goals a game.”
Handicapper Dana Lane gives the Knights the edge over the Sharks in the West.
“I shy away from teams that have made huge moves,” said Lane (@DanaLaneSports). “It just takes a while to jell.”
Lane and Smith both predict 7-1 favorite Tampa Bay will win the Stanley Cup. Smith has the Lightning beating the Sharks in the Final, while Lane has them topping Winnipeg.
“You have to be careful of a team like Winnipeg, which is going to be very hungry after getting beat in the conference finals last year,” Lane said.
Lane’s best bet is on Washington to go under its point total of 97½. He expects the Capitals to suffer from a raging Stanley Cup hangover.
“For sure. Especially with a new coaching staff,” he said. “I’m always interested to see how teams that won the Stanley Cup celebrate. As of (mid-September), (Alex) Ovechkin was still celebrating the Cup.”
Smith’s top total play is on the Devils to go over 91½ points.
“New Jersey is a team to watch in the East. I think they’ll make a real jump this year,” he said. “They’ve got returning MVP Taylor Hall, a great defense, and Cody Schneider, when healthy, is one of the best goalies in the world.”
For Stanley Cup sleepers, Lane suggests taking a shot on the Colorado Avalanche at 40-1.
“They really have the makings of something special there if they just continue to move the ship in the right direction,” he said. “That’s what’s so great about the NHL. More than any other sport, you can make a case for any team to win the (title).”