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Golden Knights could deliver blow to sports books

Updated December 7, 2017 - 9:06 pm

All of those long-shot bets placed on the Golden Knights to make the playoffs and win their division and beyond in their inaugural NHL season suddenly don’t seem so far-fetched.

We’re only one-third of the way through the regular season and the Knights (17-9-1, 35 points) are halfway to reaching their season point total (70.5) posted at Las Vegas sports books.

The Golden Knights are in second place in the Pacific Division behind the Los Angeles Kings and have the NHL’s third-best home record (11-2-0) behind Tampa Bay (12-2-1) and Nashville (11-2-1).

If the Knights can keep their magical run going and reach the postseason, they would deliver a cross-check to bookmakers.

“We get killed if they make the playoffs, and we close if they win the Stanley Cup,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said.

Knights were 200-1 to win division

William Hill bettors got preseason odds ranging from 8-1 to 10-1 on the Golden Knights to make the playoffs. The Knights are 28-1 to win the Stanley Cup after opening at 250-1.

Bettors at the Westgate sports book put their money on the Knights to win their division. While the most tickets bet on any other team to win their division was 11 on the Blackhawks, there were 67 tickets wagered on the Golden Knights at odds ranging from as high as 200-1 before the season to 8-1 when the Westgate closed the division odds in mid-November.

“For them to win the division, we’d lose, for hockey, a huge amount,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “It’s funny. I expected to see a big loss if they made the playoffs, but we actually win money on that. Before the season started, nobody had any confidence in them, and then when they started the way they did, everyone got on board.”

Knights increase hockey handle

The action on Knights’ games is at least twice as much as any other game on each night’s NHL card. The Golden Knights-Blackhawks game on a Tuesday night in October generated a larger betting handle at Station Casinos than the Jets-Dolphins game played the previous NFL Sunday.

“The handle on the Golden Knights games has far exceeded expectations,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “Now they’re so good at home, it doesn’t matter what the price is. As strange as it sounds, we can’t make it high enough. Bettors continue to place wagers on them at home.”

Vacation’s over

Salmons said visiting teams underestimated the Knights early in the season, but that no longer will be the case.

“So many teams came out here thinking this was a three-day vacation. They essentially laid by the pool and sun tanned and showed up at the rink and got their asses kicked,” he said. “That ended when Dallas came out here (for a 3-0 win Nov. 28). That was the first team that came out here serious and ready to play.”

Underdog to make playoffs

Salmons has been impressed by the Golden Knights, but doesn’t expect them to make the playoffs.

“I give the Knights all the credit in the world. They’ve so overachieved and play great fundamental hockey. But after 82 games, it’s hard,” he said. “There are so many teams that have so much more talent than they have.”

The top three teams in each division make the playoffs, as do the next two teams with the most points in the conference.

“They’d still be a decent-sized ’dog to make the playoffs right now,” Salmons said. “In their division, they aren’t that far from falling to fourth. The Kings are up there, the Sharks are playing really well and I expect Calgary or Edmonton to pass them at some point.

“If they’re not in the top three, I would be surprised if they made the playoffs. But even if they don’t, this year has been a huge success.”

Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said he probably would make the Knights a 2-1 underdog to reach the playoffs.

“They’re in great position now, but they’re also a few points away from falling into the danger zone, which can happen so quickly in hockey,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go, and there are some quality teams underneath them we expect to have a better second half.

“But no matter what they end up doing, it’s still been a phenomenal story.”

Bogdanovich and Esposito put the Golden Knights’ chances to make the playoffs at pick’em.

”I think they have a 50-50 chance to make the playoffs, especially if they continue to play so well at home,” Esposito said. “You have to give them a legitimate shot.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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