Vegas Golden Knights NHL Betting: Expansion Team a Pleasant Surprise for Bettors
The Vegas Golden Knights were lucky to enjoy the most generous expansion draft rules the NHL has seen, and they were bold and creative in maximizing their opportunities. Still, even the most enthusiastic new fan couldn't possibly have imagined that the team would fly out to a 6-1 start. And they have been fun to watch as well -- which was far from guaranteed. It has been the best story of this young NHL season. But what does the future hold? Can this team keep chugging along, exceeding expectations and thrilling bettors? Or are they going to crash back to earth? Here are five factors to consider when pondering those questions:
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Overachievement: The team was able to add some surprisingly nice players, and it was reasonable to assume they would be somewhat competitive. The problem, though, is that there are far too many guys who are playing at a level that is very likely not sustainable. James Neal has eight points in seven games, and Reilly Smith is adding a point per game. I like Smith, and Neal could play on my team any day, but they just can't keep up this pace. One indicator of the issues with both comes with their shooting percentage. Smith has scored on 16.7 percent of his shots, which is too far ahead of his 11.6 percent career rate. Far more striking, though, is Neal. His career mark is a very respectable 12.2 percent, and he has tallied 244 career goals, so that number can be trusted. What can't be trusted, though, is his ability to sustain his 31.6 percent mark this year. That's just insane, and he'll obviously come back to earth at some point. They aren't the only two that stand out, either. The Golden Knights sit fourth best in the league in goals against. They wound up with solid defensive depth and good goaltending -- more on that soon -- but they don't have the horses to keep this up long term.
Goaltending: The smartest move the team made when drafting was adding Marc-Andre Fleury. He's a very competent goalie and a good guy, so he is a perfect face for a young team. And he has been excellent. The team also made a savvy move, stealing Malcolm Subban from Boston after the team opted not to keep the prospect at the NHL level and had to put him on waivers. Fleury can carry a heavy workload, so Subban can be developed patiently in hopes that he achieves his massive potential. Both have been excellent so far -- far better than expected in the case of Subban. The problem, though, is that first Fleury and now Subban have hit the IR. They are being forced to tap depth in net that they just don't have. It's a concern in the short term, but once the top two get back to health this is an area to be relatively confident about.
Schedule: Six wins is six wins, but the schedule hasn't been nearly as tough as it could be here. The team has played five of their seven games at home. After two more home games they play eight of nine on the road. If they are still rolling after that then we will really have something to talk about. They have two wins against a profoundly bad Arizona team and a win over a Buffalo team that can't get out of their own way this year. They beat Boston with Patrice Bergeron on the sidelines, too. And they have gotten all the breaks, coming out on top all three times in the crapshoot that is overtime. Their impressive accomplishments are tainted a little by what they have faced.
Emotion: The team has had a lot of emotion to fire them up so far this year. The excitement of being a new team was always going to be a boost early on. And then there was the tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting and the incredibly emotional pregame ceremony before the home opener. The team played like they were possessed in the first period after that ceremony. Getting up and ready for games has not been a problem so far. That long road trip, and the general drudgery of the middle of the season, will make an emotional boost tougher to find from time to time, and that could be a challenge for the team.
Crowd: I don't know how it will play out, but I am curious to pay attention to crowds and what impact they have on the team going forward. So far the atmosphere has been great, and the fans have been surprisingly knowledgeable. Here in Calgary, though, I have seen countless offers for trips to head down to Vegas to watch the Flames play. It's a no-brainer in the middle of winter, and I'm sure that the same type of offers are being made all over the league. For some of the teams with more passionate fan bases it's quite possible that the Knights will feel like they are playing a road game at home. And while the enthusiasm in Vegas has been very high early on, it remains to be seen if excitement stays as high as the losses mount and the Raiders get closer to arriving.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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