Eichel Thriving in First Playoff Run
Colorado came into the playoffs as the defending Stanley Cup champions. The star-studded Edmonton Oilers were thought to have a chance to end Canada’s NHL championship drought. The Seattle Kraken were opening eyes in their second NHL season. While others might have been favorites among those making NHL predictions, the Vegas Golden Knights have quietly piled up the wins.
It doesn’t hurt that the Golden Knights have 11 key players who are 29 or older so there is plenty of experience for head coach Bruce Cassidy to call upon regardless of who he puts on the ice.
Vegas leads the four remaining teams with an average of 10.77 takeaways per 60 minutes and that has played a key role in the postseason run. It doesn’t hurt that Vegas was the only Western Conference team to win at least 25 games both at home and on the road during the regular season. That is one reason why NHL picks list the Golden Knights as the favorite heading into the Western Conference Finals.
When looking at the NHL news, keep an eye on the status of goalie Lauren Broissoit as he is questionable for the series opener as a result of a lower-body injury.
According to NHL playoff odds, the Golden Knights (+250) trail only the Carolina Hurricanes in the odds to win the Stanley Cup. Vegas is priced at -145 to win the series.
The best odds in the series are +400 for Vegas to win in seven games followed by a +450 price for the series to end in six games. The Golden Knights come in at +500 to win in five games and +1000 to take care of business in four games compared to marks of +750 and +1400 for Dallas in those scenarios.
The series begins on Friday with the first two games in Vegas.
When the Golden Knights stunned the hockey world by making it to the Stanley Cup Final in their first NHL season, the top three playoff scorers for Vegas were Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Williams Karlsson.
Marchessault has five goals and five assists and a team-leading +9 mar this playoff run.
Hats off to No. 81 🎩 🎩 🎩 pic.twitter.com/yw1bt2tdYU
— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 15, 2023
Smith has two goals and six assists while Karlsson has contributed five goals and three assists.
Defenseman Shea Theodore is another holdover from that 2017-18 team and he is one of two players on the Golden Knights to average more than 20 minutes per game.
Vegas has 10 players with at least 70 career playoff games. Defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez lead the way with 121 and 114 games.
Led by Phil Kessel’s 34 goals, five different Golden Knights have at least 20 career goals in the playoffs.
Welcome to the Playoffs
Jack Eichel played in 375 games over his six seasons with the Buffalo Sabres and never advanced to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Eichel is making the most of his playoff debut as he has team-highs of eight assists and 14 points and is tied for the team lead with six goals.
He has scored or assisted on five of the Golden Knights’ seven power-play goals. Vegas is 7-0 when Eichel has at least one point in the playoffs and 1-3 when he is held scoreless.
He was pretty quiet against the Stars in the regular season with one goal and a -3 rating in two games. Still, the NHL betting lines have Eichel in contention in the Conn Smythe odds.
Hitting the Road
Vegas has made itself right at home both in Winnipeg and Edmonton in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Golden Knights are 4-1 on the road so far in the postseason and the +7 goal differential away from home is tied for the most in the playoffs with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas is winning on the road despite mediocre special teams results as the Golden Knights have converted on 11.8% of its power plays and are killing off just 75% of the opposing power plays.
The Golden Knights were tied for the second-best points percentage on the road during the regular season with a 2.68 goals-against average ranking fifth in the NHL.
Marchessault’s five playoff goals on the road are tied for third in this year’s playoffs with Eichel leading the Golden Knights with seven points (three goals, four assists) on the road. Keep that in mind when looking at the live betting odds.
Limiting the Mistakes
Among the teams left in the playoffs, Vegas has committed the fewest number of giveaways per game.
The mark of 8.16 giveaways is pretty close to the number put up by Dallas/Seattle. What that means is that teams have to earn their scoring chances rather than allowing easy opportunities for the opposing team.
It is interesting that Vegas has allowed fewer giveaways (7.33 per 60 minutes) in the three losses and 8.46 in the eight victories.
Karlsson, Nicholas Roy, Chandler Stephenson, Keegan Kolesar, Brett Howden and Mark Stone all have more takeaways than giveaways in the playoffs. Stone’s mark of 17 takeaways and one giveaway is pretty hard to fathom. Those numbers are one of the reasons why the sportsbook favors the Golden Knights to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
Protecting the Lead
Vegas is 4-0 in the playoffs when leading after the first period and 7-0 when up after two periods.
While there have been surprising comebacks and late-game meltdowns in other series. However, when Vegas goes in front, the Golden Knights have found ways to seal the deal.
Vegas is particularly dangerous in the second period of games with 19 goals scored and just five allowed in the 11 playoff games.