The conference finals get underway Sunday night beginning with the Western Conference final between the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars. Vegas continues to be a heavy favourite despite struggling past the Second Round against the Vancouver Canucks. Dallas is flying under the radar as the conference finals begin. And rightfully so, the Stars are typically a forgotten team in the West. Even with their inability to close out Second Round, everything is in Vegas’s favour in this Western Conference final showdown.
Over in the Eastern Conference final, which begins Monday night, the favourite remains the Tampa Bay Lightning, but their opponent is a team that had odds you want to place money, if you were paying attention, to begin the playoffs in the New York Islanders. The Lightning needed five games to get past the Boston Bruins. While the Islanders needed seven games to get past the Philadelphia Flyers.
Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning Series Favourites
Dallas Stars (3) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (1)
It is no surprise that the Vegas Golden Knights are in the Western Conference final. Since the restart began, Vegas has been one of the oddsmakers’ favourites to get to this position and win the Stanley Cup. However, it was not easy for the Golden Knights. They needed seven games to rid themselves of the Canucks. But even slight arrogance and not being able to close the series right away, their roster on paper makes them the clear favourite going forward.
However, do not count out those Dallas Stars as they continue to win and put up goals. The Stars are on a mission and are playing well despite almost blowing a 3-1 lead against the Colorado Avalanche, winning in seven games. But at the beginning of the postseason, the Stars were a +1400 to win the Stanley Cup. And if you took that action, you are sitting in the driver’s seat. But they have a challenge ahead in the Golden Knights.
Going into Game 1 Sunday, the Golden Knights are a -243 favourite to win the series. They played the Stars twice in the regular season and split those games. Not to mention the Golden Knights beat the Stars in their round-robin game. But these games have been low scoring affairs outside of the round-robin game in August.
The Golden Knights offence can score at will because of their depth, but as we saw in the Second Round when the opposing goalie gets hot, the offence runs dry. On the other hand, Dallas continues to score goals despite getting minimal production from their top line. For a team that couldn’t score as the restart began, is finally hitting their stride.
In net, Vegas should roll with Robin Lehner for the rest of the playoffs with Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench. For Dallas, it should be Anton Khudobin and nobody else. Even though Ben Bishop saw action in the Second Round, Khudobin is the man, so it will be a battle of the so-called backups at the Western Conference final begins.
Both teams are using past failures as motivation, but the slight edge goes to Vegas. They are just too deep.
Official bet: Golden Knights to win -243
New York Islanders (6) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (2)
The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to show why they are the favourites in the East to make it to the Stanley Cup final, making their sixth appearance in the Eastern Conference final in the last eight seasons. While it was not easy in the first two rounds, the Lightning are into the Eastern Conference final. They are the team with the most rest too. Tampa Bay needed five games, with some overtimes mixed in there, to eliminate the Boston Bruins. The Lightning are playing the right way and sticking to their system and not cheating.
Their next opponent the tricky New York Islanders. The Islanders play a similar style to the Columbus Blue Jackets, as they clog up the neutral zone. New York was a long shot to begin the playoffs. However, at +6600 that is the kind of money you are looking for if you want to bet on a long shot. Just like the two teams in the West, the Islanders blew a 3-1 lead and were forced to a Game 7, but took care of business against the Flyers.
Entering Game 1 on Monday, the Lightning are a -219 favourite but don’t sleep on the Islanders. Over the past five games between the two teams, the Islanders are 3-2. However, in their most recent game, the Lightning won by a score of 3-1. It will be interesting to see the contrasting styles. One team is offensive-minded, while the other is more defensive-minded. However, the Lightning know how to play those tight low scoring games in the playoffs. But unlike Columbus, the Islanders just don’t rely on defence, they can score goals too.
The Lightning have the clear advantage in goal with Andrei Vasilevskiy. He has played in every game and there is no goalie controversy. With the Islanders, it appears Thomas Greiss has taken the reigns over from Semyon Varlamov, but things could change if Greiss does not perform. At this point in the season, it is better to have one guy than two.
The Lightning will not have Steven Stamkos, but they will have Nikita Kucherov. He is an X-factor in this series through the way he controls the play. However, the Lightning have shown they can win without him. Right now Stamkos is just an afterthought. The Islanders are getting offence by a committee, but have taken their lumps as Mathew Barzal has taken a beating over the last couple of games.
Official bet: Islanders to win at +169
Stanley Cup Winning Odds
As it stands right now both the Lightning and Golden Knights are +162 favourites to win the Stanley Cup. Having these favourites meet in the Stanley Cup Final would give the fans something fun to watch. But there are those Islanders lurking around again at a value play of +500. The way New York is playing, keep riding them until they lose.
The choice is yours and yours alone. But we are here to guide through this difficult process. Again this is for entertainment purposes only. Nothing guaranteed, and please enjoy responsibly.
Embed from Getty Images