Vegas Creeps Back into Contention

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 04: Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb (3), defenseman Nate Schmidt (88) and left wing William Carrier (28) stand near the team bench during a regular season game between the Washington Capitals and the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After 28 games last season, Golden Knights had a respectable 18-9-1 record. It was enough for many to begin to believe that the first-year franchise would be a success, but perhaps not enough to guarantee they could go deep into the Playoffs. In fact, December 2017 turned into a ‘golden’ month for Las Vegas, who went 11-1-1 and improved their record to 26-9-2 by the time the New Year had been rung in.

With a record of 14-13-1, it’s fair to say there isn’t just the same amount of buzz surrounding Las Vegas after 28 games this season. Sure, the novelty of seeing a new franchise hit the ground running added to the excitement last year, but things haven’t been just as good – yet.

November finished on a high for Vegas

Most would agree that Las Vegas seemed to be back to somewhere near last season’s heights when they closed out November with five consecutive wins, including decent victories over fellow playoff contenders Calgary and San Jose. It means that Las Vegas have landed within touching distance of a Wild Card spot as we hit December. A winning run like they embarked upon this time last season would certainly be welcome, but it’s probably unlikely. As it stands, Vegas are in a decent position with over two-thirds of the season left to play.

From a betting perspective, it’s quite interesting as sportsbooks have been reluctant to dismiss the chances of anyone but the teams with poorest records. Las Vegas would have hurt several sportsbooks last season, as they started the season at odds between 200/1 and 500/1 and lots of bettors would have plumped for each-way markets.

Sportsbooks divided over Vegas’ chances

After last season’s heroics, Vegas started this season much, much lower, coming in at around 14/1 for Stanley Cup glory. The current odds from Canadian betting sites are a little bigger after Vegas’ slow start to the season. William Hill go in at 40/1, whereas Bet365 and 888sport go in at 30/1 and 25/1 respectively.

For comparison, it’s worth noting that sportsbooks have gone heavily in favor of three teams at this relatively early stage of the season – Tampa Bay, Nashville and Toronto. Odds will vary from sportsbook to sportsbook of course, but generally that trio can be found at odds of around 4/1 to 6/1. All other NHL sides are at least twice those odds.

Tampa, Toronto and Nashville favored

The point is that we learned last season that we should rule teams and put to much stock into teams’ chances at our peril. Few would have picked the Golden Knights and Capitals as the pair to contest to Stanley Cup Finals in 2018. And, indeed, it was Nashville and Tampa Bay who both led the betting markets last year as they do this term. That should be caution enough.

For Vegas though, the signs are looking a bit better than a month ago. At the time of writing they have just clinched a 5-3 win against the champions in Game 29, with no less than four goals in the third quarter – a further sign that the offense is starting to find its groove again. There is still work to be done, but don’t rule out another run deep into the Playoffs for the youngest franchise in ice hockey.

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