Canadiens vs. Knights betting strategy

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Among hockey fans, there definitely seems to be a sense of jealousy of the Vegas Golden Knights and what they’ve accomplished. It’s an easy bandwagon to jump on. Most organizations could only dream of the type of success the Golden Knights and their fans have enjoyed as they’ve gone from a scrappy underdog to an absolute mega-power in a few short years.

Their opponents in the Stanley Cup semifinals fit the scrappy underdog tag nicely, though, despite being the most storied team in hockey history. If there’s one organization or fan base that isn’t fazed by what the Golden Knights have accomplished in four NHL seasons, it’s the Montreal Canadiens, with their 24 Stanley Cups.

BetMGM and DraftKings currently list the Golden Knights as -500 series favorites, with the Canadiens coming back on the other side at +375. That equates to about an 80-20 split. If the Canadiens win the series, it would be the biggest upset in more than a decade of playoff hockey, since 2010 when the Canadiens upset the Washington Capitals, who were -645 series favorites.

This Montreal team certainly has the ingredients to pull off an upset and add to the franchise’s lore. It looks, however, as if the Canadiens will be without the services of arguably their best defenseman, Jeff Petry, for at least Game 1. With this news, it’s all that more difficult to envision the Habs avoiding defeat on Monday, especially after the Golden Knights handled the Colorado Avalanche in the previous round as if they were the Winnipeg Jets.

BetMGM lists Vegas as a -280 moneyline favorite in Game 1, and I would be enticed to take the Canadiens at +220, but this isn’t a great spot. I actually expect the odds will continue to trend in favor of the home team. That’s not because I don’t think the Canadiens offer value. I believe they do. The Golden Knights shouldn’t be any more than a -200 favorite here, but I don’t necessarily think every other bettor feels that way and therefore I’m in no rush to bet on the Canadiens.

Carey Price
Carey Price

Anyone who wishes to back the underdog here, like me, might be better off waiting until closer to puck drop. If I’m going to lose a bet, I better have gotten the best of the odds. Bettors can currently find +230 at FanDuel and William Hill in New Jersey, but I would wait for a bigger price before striking, unless Petry is declared available.

The same goes for the series, in which I estimate the Golden Knights will move onto the Stanley Cup finals approximately 76 percent of the time. The Canadiens should win the series more than the current odds imply. Will this, however, be the first game they manage to steal? Maybe, but I believe there will be a better time to get involved: likely after they fall down 0-1 in the series.

Sure, +375 is a pretty good price, and bettors can find +400 at William Hill, but there are 35 different scenarios in a best-of-seven, and 15 involve a team losing Game 1 and coming back to win the series. I estimate the Canadiens’ chances of winning the series would be about 16 percent if they were to lose Monday, which works out to odds of +525.

Once again, it might be better to wait for a different point in the series to jump in at much bigger odds. The Golden Knights are a juggernaut, and they might win the Stanley Cup, but they’ll have to get past Carey Price and a roster full of veteran skaters who know exactly what it takes to win in the playoffs.

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