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Golden Knights bettors facing steep prices against Canadiens

Sportsbooks aren’t making it easy to back the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup semifinals.

The Knights are -505 (wager $505 to win $100) at Circa Sports to win their series against Montreal, which starts Monday. But that doesn’t mean bettors should go looking for value with the Canadiens at +400.

“Value teams usually end up getting their tickets ripped up,” handicapper Dana Lane (@DanaLaneSports) said.

The lowest price on the Knights in Las Vegas is -500 at BetMGM, the Golden Nugget, the South Point and William Hill. The best price on the Canadiens is +450 at Boyd Gaming.

For Game 1, Circa has the best price on the Knights at -258; the other books are at -270 or higher. The best price on Montreal is +250 at Boyd Gaming.

A popular bet probably will be the Knights -1½ goals on the puck line. That is available mostly at even money and as high as +114 at Boyd.

“Covering the puck line will be big,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said via text message.

The -505 price on the Knights implies an 83.5 percent chance of winning the series. According to SportsOddsHistory.com, the Knights are the biggest favorites in the Stanley Cup semifinal round since 1989, when Calgary (-1,500) beat Chicago 4-1 and Montreal (-600) beat Philadelphia 4-2. Boston beat Washington 4-0 in 1990 as a -450 favorite.

When the Knights eliminated the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, Vegas opened at -450 or lower to beat Montreal. Bogdanovich and Circa sportsbook manager Chris Bennett said they took money on the Knights even at those prices, forcing the number up.

It’s easy to see why bettors believe the Knights will cruise past the Canadiens. Vegas tied with Colorado for the best record in the NHL and just dispatched the Avalanche, who had been the Stanley Cup favorites. Montreal has won seven straight games, climbing out of a 3-1 hole against Toronto and sweeping Winnipeg, but the Canadiens squeaked into the playoffs as the fourth seed in the North Division and would not have reached the postseason under the usual format.

Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said he knows he will be facing one-sided action from the public throughout the series.

“Even against Colorado, we had most tickets on the Knights’ side and puck line and (parlayed) to other things,” he said. “Vegas was able to win down 2-0 to what most people thought was the best team in hockey.”

And that’s why Lane said he won’t consider backing the Canadiens.

“I’ve never been a guy who wants to take a shot with a team,” he said. “… They can’t match line to line with Vegas. That’s for sure.”

The case for Montreal revolves around the stellar play of goaltender Carey Price, who has allowed two goals or fewer in six of the Canadiens’ eight postseason victories. But even there, Lane said he prefers Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to Price.

Lane said he is looking at under 5½ in Game 1 as the teams feel each other out in their first meeting this season. He’s not betting a side but would only consider the Knights -1½ on the puck line.

Bettors daunted by the heavy price on the Knights can dig into the growing prop menu available at sportsbooks. Options include team totals, whether the game will go into overtime, who will score the first goal and whether individual players will score in the game.

“Even if you don’t like either team, there are so many ways to bet the board,” Esposito said, and all of the options are available through the sportsbooks’ betting apps as well.

The Knights are the -105 favorites to win the Stanley Cup at Circa after the New York Islanders beat the Tampa Bay Lighting 2-1 in Game 1 of their semifinal series Sunday. The Lightning are still next at +235, followed by the Islanders at 5-1 and Canadiens at +1,225.

The Lightning are now -120 at Circa to win the series over the Islanders.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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