If the Golden Knights’ odds to win the Stanley Cup during the regular season were plotted on a line graph, it would almost resemble a heartbeat. Up, down, up and down again before finally plateauing.
The odds on the Florida Panthers were even more volatile.
Two teams that took divergent paths will meet in the Stanley Cup Final starting with Game 1 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. The Knights are -130 favorites at the Westgate SuperBook to win the best-of-seven series and -121 favorites at Circa Sports.
“Florida’s best players are better than Vegas’ best players. But Vegas is so much deeper than Florida,” Circa sportsbook manager Jeff Davis said. “I think Vegas is like less than 1 percent better than Florida from a strictly power-rating basis. … I truly have no idea what’s going to happen. I kind of think it’s going to be a long series. And I kind of think it’s going to be a really low-scoring series.”
The Knights opened at 16-1 at the SuperBook last June to win the Cup and dropped to 12-1 before moving to 14-1 when the team announced in August that goaltender Robin Lehner was out for the season after undergoing hip surgery.
Circa Sports had the highest odds locally on the Knights at 20-1 in August.
When the regular season opened in October, the Knights were at 16-1 at the SuperBook and 20-1 at Circa. That number dipped at the SuperBook to 8-1 the first week of November and was as low as 7-1 after Thanksgiving with the Knights leading the Pacific Division.
By Christmas, the Knights were back up to 10-1 at the SuperBook and climbed as high as 18-1 around Valentine’s Day when injuries hit. But the Knights kept winning and made it down to 10-1 at the SuperBook to win the Stanley Cup at the start of the playoffs.
“(The goaltending) was a three-ring circus,” SuperBook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “But they somehow started playing better hockey.”
The Panthers opened at 10-1 at the SuperBook in June after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous season but struggled out of the gate. The odds to win the title rose steadily from 14-1 to 18-1 to 20-1 and reached 40-1 at Christmas, as Florida was nine points out of a playoff spot.
When Valentine’s Day rolled around, the Panthers were as high as 60-1, but they slipped into the postseason when the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 5-2 to the last-place Chicago Blackhawks in the penultimate game of the regular season.
“Obviously, Florida had higher expectations coming into the year as far as what had happened the year before,” Salmons said. “But both teams really seemed to crater out by the middle of February and then, from there, things started getting much better.”
Florida was 30-1 to win the Cup entering the playoffs and opened against the Boston Bruins, who set an NHL record for wins and points. The Panthers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit, then knocked off Toronto and swept Metropolitan Division champion Carolina.
The SuperBook list the Panthers at +110 to win the series.
“It looks on the surface like you’ve got two teams that are pretty balanced as far as a power rating,” Salmons said.
The market for the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as postseason MVP has two Panthers favored, as the Knights’ depth cancels each other out. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is 2-1 to win the award, and Florida firebrand Matthew Tkachuk is +360.
Knights forward Jack Eichel is +375, followed by William Karlsson (7-1), Jonathan Marchessault (8-1), Adin Hill (12-1) and Mark Stone (16-1).
At Westgate SuperBook
Exact series result
Knights in 4 10-1
Knights in 5 +475
Knights in 6 +450
Knights in 7 +425
Panthers in 4 14-1
Panthers in 5 +750
Panthers in 6 +475
Panthers in 7 +525