Teams #31 and #32 Meet Up in the Season Opener
The last two expansion franchises in the NHL will get together to kick off the 2021 season on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights proved just a couple of years ago that you can have success right out of the chute, losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017/18 to the Capitals in their first year of existence.
Seattle would love to enjoy some similar success, and Vegas started off 8-1 in their first few games, five of those as underdogs in the betting lines. Does that give the Kraken some value in moneyline betting, with BetUS and Bovada both having the team as +210 underdogs?
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Seattle a Bit Thin Already
The Kraken went 4-2 in the preseason, which included having a couple of rough defensive outings in a 0-6 loss at Edmonton and falling 4-1 at home to Calgary. They also beat Calgary on the road in a SO, though, and tallied a 4-0 win over Vancouver thanks to two goals from Vince Dunn.
The big problem the Kraken face in the opener in Tuesday’s free NHL picks is that they’ve been stricken by COVID protocols. Marcus Johansson, Jared McCann, Jamie Oleksiak, Joonas Donskoi, and Calle Jarnkrok are all possibly out for the opener because of quarantine orders.
McCann had been centering Seattle’s top line, so that also kind of affects NHL totals betting with the number at 5.5. The Kraken still have Jaden Schwartz, who had two goals in the preseason Calgary win, and Jordan Eberle, who had a role in getting the Islanders to the Stanley Cup last season.
While those players being out aren’t ideal, what still gives Seattle value in moneyline betting on Tuesday is the fact that Phillip Grubauer is in the net. The Kraken were able to wrestle Grubauer away from Colorado in the offseason even after he had the best season of his career with a 1.95 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
Will Vegas Feel the Loss of Fleury?
Grubauer actually was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2020, finishing third behind Marc-Andre Fleury and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Fleury was the Vegas goaltender that helped the team get to 82 points last season, which was tied with Grubauer’s Avalanche for the most in the league.
Just like Grubauer left Colorado, so did Fleury in getting traded to Chicago. Fleury found out about the trade via social media and not the team, which shows that the Golden Knights are confident in Robin Lehner manning the pipes full time this season.
Lehner played in just 19 games last year, posting a 13-4 record with a 2.29 GAA. The 30-year old hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2018 in Buffalo, and there are some advantages to having all those extra days off. Fatigue shouldn’t be a factor in the betting odds for the season opener, though.
Vegas had the #2 scoring offense in the league last season, and their major offseason acquisition besides the Fleury trade was bringing in former #2 draft pick Nolan Patrick, who had just 9 points in 52 games last season. If a change of scenery can help Patrick reach his potential, this is a scary Golden Knights team.
Kraken at Golden Knights Pick
T-Mobile is a tough place to go in and get a win, as Vegas was 21-5-2 on their own ice last season. That being said, the Kraken isn’t stocked with a bunch of rookies; these are all experienced NHL players who have just been with other teams.
Vegas is priced too high at -250 for Online Sports Betting. Grubauer can go toe-to-toe with Lehner, and this one might need extra time to decide the winner.
Pick: Kraken +210