Golden Knights, handicapper hope to ride Fleury to Stanley Cup

Updated May 26, 2018 - 9:04 pm

Craps players who have rolled dice for longer than an hour without losing are called Golden Arms by the California Hotel in downtown Las Vegas.

NHL players who’ve rode a hot goaltender to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season are called Golden Knights.

It’s well-documented that the biggest key to success in the Stanley Cup playoffs is having a hot goalie and Vegas netminder Marc-Andre Fleury is sizzling.

Enjoying the best season of his 14-year NHL career, the three-time Stanley Cup champion enters the Final against the Washington Capitals with career playoff highs in save percentage (.947), goals-against average (1.68) and shutouts (4).

Fleury, 12-3 this postseason, will finish with his best postseason record — topping his 16-8 mark for the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins — if he helps the Knights hoist the Cup.

That’s exactly what handicapper Dana Lane expects Fleury to do. Lane, who is 85-59-4 (59 percent) against the spread on his NHL picks this season in the Review-Journal, likes the Knights to win the series over the Capitals, largely because of its 33-year-old goalie.

Knights (-145) over Capitals, series

“That guy has been absolutely phenomenal,” said Lane (@DanaLaneSports). “This is, by far, his best season, which is hard to fathom for a guy who’s got three rings.

“It really comes down to which goaltender do I think is better and it’s Fleury. And which defensemen in front of them do I think is better and that’s Vegas.”

On behalf of the defense

Lane, who noted that Fleury is 22-12-2 in his career against Washington, including 2-0 this season, gives the Knights the definitive edge on defense.

Vegas is second in the playoffs in goals allowed per game (1.80), trailing only the Los Angeles Kings (1.75), who limited the Knights to seven goals while getting swept in four games.

“This is a Vegas team that has gotten better defensively — and they were really good during the (regular) season,” Lane said. “Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt are as good defensively as any defensive pairing in the league. They’re really underrated.

“The Capitals are fast but Vegas definitely has the speed edge, and I really believe Schmidt and McNabb will be able to hold down their top two lines. And that’s even before we get to (defensemen) Shea Theodore and Deryk Engelland. All those guys have played real well, too.”

Washington goalie Braden Holtby is riding a hot streak of his own, coming off back-to-back shutouts of the Tampa Bay Lightning en route to the Eastern Conference title. But Lane expects the Knights to put more pressure on him than the Caps will put on Fleury.

“When all is said and done, you’re going to see Vegas have the advantage on the power play and take way more shots on Holtby than Washington will get on Fleury,” he said. “Washington was last in the NHL in shots on goal this season. I just don’t think Washington is going to require Marc-Andre Fleury to be as spectacular as he was against Winnipeg.”

The Knights beat the Capitals 3-0 at T-Mobile Arena in December and again 4-3 at Washington in February, when star Alex Ovechkin was held to only three shots in 20 minutes of ice time.

Knights (-145) over Capitals, Game 1

Vegas is 3-0 in home playoff openers and 6-1 at home in the postseason.

Lane expects the Knights to continue that trend in Monday’s opener and capitalize — no pun intended — on their home-ice advantage.

“I like Vegas to win Game 1 and really ride the momentum of T-Mobile Arena. I think they’re the better of the two teams and throw in the home-ice advantage and I think Washington is going to have a very difficult time handling Vegas,” Lane said. “Washington still doesn’t know if it can win at T-Mobile. Vegas goes in with confidence while Washington goes in with question marks.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

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

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