Updated February 24, 2020 - 10:30 pm
Two weeks after the Golden Knights were clinging to the final playoff spot in the NHL’s Western Conference, they suddenly are the favorites to win the 2020 Stanley Cup.
The Knights, riding a six-game win streak, opened Monday at the Westgate sportsbook as 5-1 co-favorites with the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the NHL title.
However, after the Knights acquired goaltender Robin Lehner in a trade deadline deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Westgate made them the sole +450 favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Lehner is 16-10-5 with a .918 save percentage that’s good for 11th-best in the league. The Knights sent backup goalie Malcolm Subban (9-7-3, .890 save percentage) to Chicago in the trade.
“That’s a huge upgrade,” said Ed Salmons, Westgate vice president of risk. “They hated to start Subban. Every time they did, he gave up a lot of goals. This guy’s an established player. Stat-wise, he looks like he’s as good as (Marc-Andre) Fleury, if not better.
“I would imagine he’ll get a lot more playing time than Subban did. Fleury was playing way too much.”
The Knights also moved to 2-1 favorites at the Westgate to win the West after starting the day at +225 and to -300 favorites to win the Pacific Division after starting the day at -225. The Knights are +240 favorites to win the West at Station Casinos and William Hill, which has Vegas at +550 to win the Cup.
The Knights also acquired Montreal Canadiens forward Nick Cousins on Monday.
“He should help them a little bit because they were banged up on the third and fourth line with injuries,” Salmons said.
Salmons also praised the Knights’ recent acquisition of defenseman Alec Martinez from the Los Angeles Kings.
“That was a really good move. They definitely needed another defenseman and he seems like a perfect fit,” he said. “Everything the organization does, they’re always ahead of the curve on this stuff. Everything seems like it’s falling in place.”
The Knights (34-22-8, 76 points) have a three-point lead in the Pacific Division after going 10-3-2 in their first 15 games under coach Pete DeBoer, who Salmons said has been the biggest key to the team’s recent run.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Salmons said. “If you go back 10 days and look at the analytics, they were barely above 50 percent to make the playoffs. But they’ve been winning every game lately. I definitely think it’s the coaching change.”
The Westgate has lowered the Knights’ odds during their surge, but that hasn’t deterred bettors. The book last week took a $10,000 wager to win $80,000 on the Knights to win the Cup at 8-1 and a $3,000 bet to win $21,000 at 7-1.
“There’s always a market here for people betting the Knights to win the Stanley Cup,” Salmons said.
Rebels backers rejoice
A Westgate bettor won a $500 money-line bet on UNLV at 9-1 odds that paid $4,500 when the Rebels (15-14) dealt San Diego State (26-1) its first loss Saturday in a 66-63 upset win. William Hill paid out about $14,000 on a total of $1,200 in money-line wagers on UNLV.
Sharp bettors backed the Rebels, who opened as 15½-point underdogs. The line dipped to 13½ before closing at 14. But William Hill still won on the game overall because of action on the Aztecs, who were -1,600 on the money line, meaning a bettor had to wager $1,600 to win $100.
“It was a good decision,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “Any time a team like that goes down straight up, it will probably kill some money-line parlays and that’s what we did.
UMBC strikes again
A Westgate bettor lost a five-figure money-line wager on Vermont, which lost 66-64 to Maryland-Baltimore County on Saturday as a 16-point favorite and -4,000 on the money line.
In 2018, UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when it stunned Virginia 74-54 as a 20½-point underdog.
NCAA Tournament seminar
Sunset Station will host its annual “Tip Off to the Tourney” college basketball seminar at 6 p.m. March 17 in Club Madrid. The event is free and open to the public. Pizza and soft drinks will be served. Two entries to Station’s Last Man Standing college basketball contest, which pays $60,000 to the winner, will be given away.
The seminar will be hosted by Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito and “Sportsbook Radio” host Brian Blessing. The panel will feature handicappers Hank Goldberg, Kenny White, Bruce Marshall, Bernie Fratto and Andy Iskoe.
Golden Knights odds
At Westgate sportsbook
(Up to 20-1)
Golden Knights; +450
Maple Leafs; 20-1
(Up to 15-1)
Golden Knights; 2-1
Golden Knights; -300