We already know that bettors can’t get enough of the Golden Knights. But since they are finally an underdog in the Western Conference Final, that angle has taken on new meaning.
Folks aren’t just betting with their hearts. Now it’s a value play that created a land rush Thursday night after the Westgate sports book posted the Winnipeg Jets as a minus 160 favorite over the Knights, who opened at plus 140.
But that didn’t last long. By Friday morning, Vegas had been bet to plus 120.
Plus money on the Knights sent alarms buzzing. Chris Andrews at the South Point certainly felt that, especially since his book is open 24 hours. But apps all over the state never sleep, and they were humming as the Jets were winding up their Game 7 victory at Nashville.
The public clearly sees what happened during the regular season, and they are encouraged by the goalie matchup between the Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury and the Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck.
The Knights went 2-1 against the Jets, including a 5-2 win Nov. 10 at T-Mobile Arena when Fleury was hurt and Hellebuyck was chased. The Knights were plus 115.
Oh, how times have changed. Fleury was still out three weeks later in Winnipeg, when the Jets erupted for five goals on Maxime Legace in the third period of a 7-4 win. The Jets were minus 200.
Then came Feb. 1, when the Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime in Fleury’s only start against the Jets. Hellebuyck played all three games with a goals-against average of 4.40.
But the final regular-season matchup was more than three months ago. If you look at the entire regular season, you can see why wiseguys jumped on Winnipeg most of the season. VSiN newsletter editor Jeff Fogle broke down key numbers comparing the two teams:
Goal differential: Jets plus 59, Golden Knights plus 44.
Five-on-five goal differential: Jets plus 30, Golden Knights plus 18.
Goals-per-game ranking: Jets second, Golden Knights fifth.
Goals allowed per game: Jets fifth, Golden Knights eighth.
Against the rest of the NHL, Hellebuyck was dynamite. He won 44 games, a league-high for an American-born goalie. Another U.S. native with the Jets, Blake Wheeler, shared the NHL lead in assists with 68, and Finnish-born Patrik Laine had 44 goals, second to Alex Ovechkin.
The Jets racked up a franchise-record 114 points, the second-most in the league and the most of the four teams left in the playoffs. That’s why they have home-ice advantage.
But it also was impressive that to get to their first conference final, the Jets went on the road to win Game 7. Had I bet the game before it started, I would have been on the Predators’ side. I should have been paying more attention to the road-ice advantage. Five of the seven games in the series were won by the road team.
A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens 25 years ago. So all of Canada is pulling against the Knights — except the relatives of the 17 Canadians who are on their roster.
If you really want to show your love for the Knights, go to the Westgate and bet that they sweep the Jets in four games. The payoff would be plus 1,500. That’ll show them up north.
Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His show on the Vegas Stats &Information Network can be heard on SiriusXM 204 and livestreamed at reviewjournal.com/vegas-stats-information-network.