Don’t let last night’s pick fool you: this is not going to be as easy as it was with our first pick of the season.
Taking the defending Cup champions to blow out the Blackhawks seemed like a late Christmas gift given the +105 odds. Heck, the odds come at at +140, so kudos to those who hopped all over that one from day one.
The Lighting scored three first-period goals and added two more being a bank shot from behind the goal line cost Andrei Vasilevskiy the shutout with a little more than three minutes left. Nevertheless, the Bolts cruised to a 5-1 win and started our season on the right note!
Now, we’ll turn our attention to this 10-game schedule as we look into the Ducks vs. Golden Knights in a West Division tilt from Sin City!
Season Record: 1-0
Ducks vs. Golden Knights Betting Odds
- Ducks (+200)
- Golden Knights (-224)
- Ducks +1.5 (-125)
- Golden Knights -1.5 (+105)
- Over 6 (+100)
- Under 6 (-110)
Ducks vs. Golden Knights NHL Pick Breakdown
The Ducks’ offense remains in transition as they look to turn things over from the old core to the new one, but it could be another year of painful results.
Last season, the Ducks ranked 29th in overall offense and 30th on the power play. The team’s advanced metrics were more favorable than their surface number, however there just isn’t nearly enough high-end talent or depth on this roster.
The top trio of Jakob Silfverberg, Adam Henrique will do the heavy lifting, but underneath them is plenty of inexperience an unproven talent.
The declining Ryan Getzlaf is slated as the team’s second-line center, but if this team is to many any offensive strides it will need young players such as Maxime Comtois, Sam Steele and Troy Terry to step up as the team’s projected third line.
That said, they could get an offense boost — especially on the power play — from Kevin Shattenkirk who was brought in on a three-year deal this offseason and Cam Fowler remains an offensively-capable defender as well.
At the end of the day, however, I don’t expect this Ducks to improve much at the offensive end at all this season.
The Ducks went from the third-ranked defense in the 2017-18 season all the way to 25th last season as they allowed 3.15 goals per game. Again, there’s a concern that nothing could change this season.
Shattenkirk helps lengthen their blueline and both Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are quality defenders, but the projected bottom pairing of Kodie Curran and Jani Hakanpaa and their combined five games could be exposed despite the offensive production Curran put forth in the Swedish Hockey League last season.
It also appears as if the Ducks deserved every bit of their poor defensive ranking last season, if not worse.
At 5v5, they ranked 26th in terms of expected goals against/60, 27th in scoring chances against/60 and 28th in high-danger chances against/60. The addition of Shattenkirk might help some coming off a fine bounce back season with the Lightning, but he’s never been regarded as a quality defender but rather for his offensive ability from the back end.
If there’s any hope of the Ducks making a miracle run in the west, it all rides on Gibson’s shoulders.
Gibson is coming off a career-worst season, however, one in which he worked to a 3.00 GAA and .904 Sv% across 51 starts. Clearly, his defensive did him zero favors in front of him, and he was largely left hung to dry for much of the season.
While I don’t believe the Ducks defense has improved much, if at all, I believe there’s reason to believe Gibson can bounce back with a improved individual performance.
His 2.53 GAA and .918 Sv% for his career came in front of superior Ducks defensive teams, but Gibson has had 10 months off to rest after some big-time usage over the last three seasons. He had to be worn down about as much as any goaltender in the league last season and combined with his lackluster defense a career-worst year was the end result.
There’s no doubting this team’s talent on the flanks. Newly-minted captain Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith form one of the best top-six winger groups in the NHL. The problem is down the middle.
The Golden Knights have William Karlsson atop their depth chart at center, but underneath him is the likes of Chandler Stephenson, Cody Glass and Tomas Nosek. In other words, a fairly uninspiring group. It’s the main concern to be sure on an otherwise well-rounded Golden Knights roster.
That said, the Golden Knights just dominate the possession game and despite decreased depth at center, I think that trend continues.
At 5v5, the Golden Knights ranked first in expected goals for/60, first in scoring chances for/60 and first in high-danger chances for/60. I don’t see the trade of Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets sending those elite advanced metrics down the board.
Their 27th-ranked high-danger shooting rate and 21st-ranked 5v5 overall shooting rate set them back and they finished 13th in offense, but also ninth on the power play.
Increased puck look could get Vegas back into the league’s top 10 on offense this season.
Of course, the most notable addition to anyone’s defense is Alex Pietrangelo who Vegas signed to a seven-year deal in free agency, away from the west-rival Blues.
The deal forced them to trade Nate Schmidt from their back end — and Stastny at center — to make the financials work, but there’s no doubt there was a need and perfect fit on that Vegas blueline.
Since entering the league prior to the 2017-18 season, the Golden Knights rank ninth in overall defense, but their slipping to 13th last season was largely based on subpar goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, neither of which are the top option in Vegas this season.
Again, the Golden Knights were advanced stat darlings on defense last season, ranking ninth in expected goals against/60 at 5v5, fourth in scoring chances against/60 and 12th in high-danger chances against/60. A 20th-ranked 5v5 save percentage didn’t help their cause.
Of course, adding Pietrangelo at the expense of Schmidt is a plus, and I would expect this Vegas defense to certainly get back into the top 10 as a result.
The Golden Knights acquired netminder Robin Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2020 trade deadline, sending Subban back as part of the return. Lehner would go on to post a 1.67 GAA And .940 Sv% in three regular-season games with his new club before working to a 1.99 GAA and .917 Sv% across 16 postseason games.
Head coach Peter DeBoer recently stated that he’s not going to be naming his starting goaltender this season until close to game time, but I’d be shocked if Lehner doesn’t get the season-opening nod ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury with no back-to-back situation at play here.
Over the last three seasons, Lehner is tied for the NHL’s third-ranked save percentage (.919) among goaltenders with at least 120 games played in that time. The names ahead of him? Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s tied with Tuukka Rask and Connor Hellebuyck.
In other words, dude has been pretty much as good as anyone since his breakout season with the 2017-18 Islanders, although his career .918 Sv% is quite impressive regardless.
After inking the Swede to a five-year extension in the offseason, the Golden Knights appear to have their man moving forward.
Ducks vs. Golden Knights NHL Pick
Prior to the season, the Ducks were listed at +2000 to win the west, the longest odds of any of the eight teams. On the flip side, the Golden Knights were listed at +175, just barely behind the favored Colorado Avalanche at +160.
That pretty much gives you an idea of how the sportsbooks see the season playing out for these two games, and how I see this one playing out tonight.
I probably made too big of a stink about the team’s center ice depth in my pre-season coverage of the Knights, but I don’t see that being a real concern until the postseason if they don’t address it before the trade deadline. The team’s elite set of wingers should ensure continued puck possession domination and the new captain Stone is the epitome of such a strength.
There’s a clear offense and defensive advantage when it comes to this matchup, and the only (slight) hesitation I would have is Gibson standing on his head and keeping his team in it when they don’t deserve to be.
However, Lehner has been the better goaltender of the two over the last three seasons anyway.
Like I did with the Lightning on Opening Night Wednesday, I’m not going to overthink this one and I’ll take the Golden Knights -1.5 on the puckline at identical +105 odds.