For the second consecutive season, the Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks will square off in the NHL playoffs in an evenly matched series Las Vegas oddsmakers opened at pick’em.
For the second straight year, handicapper Dana Lane is going against popular public opinion in Las Vegas and siding with the Sharks as minus 105 series underdogs to the Knights (-115).
“This is a really, really close series. But I still think San Jose is a little bit better,” said Lane (@DanaLaneSports). “They have two things going for them — home-ice advantage and the revenge factor from last season. That gives them a little chip on their shoulder and a little bit of an edge.”
The Knights whipped San Jose 7-0 in the opener of their 2018 Western Conference semifinal series and eliminated the Sharks in six games en route to the Stanley Cup Final.
Lane likes San Jose to win in seven games this time around, mostly because of its edge on the power play. The Sharks are sixth in the NHL on the power play (23.7 percent) and the Knights are 24th (16.8 percent).
“Special teams in the postseason are absolutely gigantic, and the Sharks are flat out better than Vegas from a power play standpoint,” he said.
“I really think (Knights goalie) Marc-Andre Fleury is going to have to be spectacular to win this series, as is (Sharks goalie) Martin Jones.”
Wiseguys at the Westgate sportsbook jumped on the Knights to win the series when the odds were first posted on April 2.
“We wrote a ton of two-way action on it, but right away people we view as smart people bet the Knights at (minus) 110,” Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons said. “The goaltending difference is huge. The Sharks goalie is not good. I think the Knights will find a way to win. They’re the deeper team and have better goaltending.”
If Vegas knocks off San Jose, Salmons expects the Knights to make another run to the Stanley Cup Final.
“The Western Conference is really weak,” he said. “If the Knights can win the first series, that will give them momentum, and I think they’ll probably get back to the Final. They just need to get some momentum going again.”
Vegas lost seven of its last eight regular-season games.
Bruins (-145) over Maple Leafs, series
Lane likes the Bruins (-145) over the Maple Leafs.
“Boston is a really, really good team. That top line (of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak) is arguably the best top line in hockey,” he said. “I worry a little about Boston’s depth as they go on, but Toronto is so bad defensively, I think they get by Toronto in six.”
Jets (+115) over Blues, series Jets (18-1) to win Stanley Cup
Lane also likes the Winnipeg Jets (+115) over the St. Louis Blues in their playoff series and recommends taking Winnipeg as a Stanley Cup sleeper at 18-1 odds.
“I love Winnipeg’s home-ice advantage. They’re extremely efficient on the offensive end and they remind me a little bit of Washington with their puck movement and spacing,” he said. “They have the toughness that they need to go through the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
The Jets split two regular-season games with the Lightning, who Lane expects to win the East.
“They’re not as efficient as Tampa, but they’re a bigger team and I think they can bully Tampa around a little bit,” he said. “I really like Winnipeg. I think this is their year.”
Don’t ride the Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the 2-1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup after tying an NHL record for wins with 62 (62-16-4).
“They should win it, but there’s zero value at their odds,” Salmons said. “The East is such a deeper and better conference than the West. One thing that works against Tampa is no matter who they play, they’re all going to be really good teams.
“Their hardest series will be in the second round. Whoever wins the Boston-Toronto series will probably have the best chance of knocking out Tampa.”