The series shifts to Montreal for Game 3 with the series tied at one apiece. Let’s analyze this Friday night matchup and determine which team is the sharp side in our NHL picks!
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Montreal Canadiens
Friday, June 18, 2021 – 08:00 PM EDT at Bell Centre
The Knights were substantial home favorites on Wednesday night but the Canadiens rose to the occasion and shook off the funk of a 4-1 loss in the series opener and emerged with a 3-2 Game 2 victory in Sin City. Montreal set the pace of the game early by scoring a pair of goals, courtesy of Joel Armia and Tyler Toffoli, in the first period followed by another in the second period off the stick of Paul Byron to make it 3-0 late in the second frame.
The Knights’ Alex Pietrangelo would finally beat Canadiens’ netminder, Carey Price, to cut the lead to 3-1 at the end of the second period and would tally again late in the third but the Canadiens’ doused the rally and went on to even the series.
“We showed some good composure,” Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme said. “At one point we felt the pressure, they were trying to come back. Overall, we showed pretty good composure. I think we can still do a better job. We wanted to support the puck better. I think we did that tonight and it paid off. I think we still can be better on a few occasions managing the puck and we’ll do that.”
“Can’t go down 2-0 and expect to win the game,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “These guys play a good team game when they get the lead. We gotta do a better job with our starts and we gotta find our preparation.”
Will He or Won’t He?
First-line center, Chandler Stephenson, was a late scratch for the Knights on Wednesday after it was reported he had suffered an upper-body injury. This forced third-line center, Nick Roy, to take the reigns of the top line but it wasn’t long before head coach, Peter DeBoer, had seen enough and inserted rookie Keegan Kolesar to center between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
So the question remains, will Stephenson suit up for Game 3 or will he sit? It’s a big question and if we peruse the NHL odds at all of the best online sportsbooks, we can see that the oddsmakers have installed Vegas as anywhere between a -162 and -175 road favorite. That would seem to indicate that Stephenson will get the green light but the verdict is still out at the time of this writing.
Wanna Make a Bet?
I believe the late scratch of Chandler Stephenson threw a monkey wrench into the Vegas offense and the entire team came out flat on Wednesday. The Canadiens came out quite the opposite as evidenced by their first-period heroics when they not only went up, 2-0, but enjoyed a 12-4 advantage in shots-on-goal as well as shot attempts (24-13). And the quality of these shots was on display as well with a dominating 14-4 edge in scoring chances as well as high-danger chances at a whopping 8-1 advantage over Vegas.
But then how does one explain that when the final buzzer sounded, the Knights had outshot the Habs, 31-23, and tallied the last two goals of the game? Well, it’s quite simple actually because they realized they had to take the Canadiens seriously and acclimated themselves to life without Stephenson on the No. 1 line.
Talent-wise, Montreal does not matchup but we could have made that observation when they stunned the Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs. However, unlike Toronto, the Golden Knights are not legendary choke artists and will come back with a vengeance on Friday night. If you combine Vegas’ regular and postseason road records you will find they are 22-11-1 away from the T-Mobile Arena while the Canadiens combined record at home is 16-13-4.
We should also note that in a battle of two superb goalies, Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the best money goalies in the history of the game, and with all due respect to Carey Price, the edge in this category goes to Vegas. Let’s swallow hard and lay the lumber with the road chalk here.
Free NHL Pick: Golden Knights -162 at SugarHouse