I can’t guarantee you whether the Vegas Golden Knights or Washington Capitals will win the 2018 Stanley Cup. But, I can guarantee you that there will be a first-time champion. The Caps were swept in their only Cup Finals appearance (1998), and of course, the Knights are the most successful expansion team in sports history. They are also the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals Betting favorites.
Stanley Cup Finals Betting Odds & Expert Pick: Washington vs. Las Vegas
Opening Stanley Cup Finals Betting Odds: Las Vegas -135 / Washington +115
When these franchises first met on Dec. 23 in Las Vegas, no one had any idea who good the Golden Knights were yet. They beat the Capitals 3-0 thanks to three first-period goals. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots for his first shutout with his new franchise. William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, and Oscar Lindberg scored the goals. Braden Holtby had 25 saves for Washington, which did play the night before and was dragged to overtime in Arizona.
On Feb. 4 in D.C., the Knights won 4-3. Tuch scored the go-ahead goal with 5:12 left. Vegas rallied three times from one-goal deficits. Nicklas Backstrom gave Washington a 3-2 lead 52 seconds into the third period. Reilly Smith tied it when he scored his second goal of the game on a wrist shot from the left circle at 9:21. Fleury stopped 20 shots. Philipp Grubauer had 27 saves for Washington. You won’t see him in this series unless Holtby is injured.
Why Should the Capitals be your Stanley Cup Finals Betting Pick??
As good as this franchise has been in the regular season over the past several years, it’s hard to believe it’s the team’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1998 and that it has never won a game in the Finals. Alex Ovechkin is an all-time great player and finally has that monkey off his back.
Ovechkin scored just over a minute into Wednesday’s 4-0 Game 7 win in Tampa Bay. It was his 58th career goal in the playoffs in 116 games played. His 0.50 goals per game average in the postseason ranks ninth in NHL history among players to appear in at least 100 contests. The leader is Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux at 0.71 per game.
The 32-year-old Ovechkin accumulated seven points in seven games during the Eastern Conference Finals and has 12 goals and 22 points in 19 games this postseason. The franchise playoff record for goals in a postseason is 14 by John Druce in 1990.
Ovechkin, who eclipsed 600 goals and 1,000 games in 2017-18, will be making his Stanley Cup Finals debut in his 13th NHL season. He aims to become the third player in NHL history to score 600 career regular-season goals before hoisting his first Stanley Cup (Luc Robitaille in 2002 with Detroit and Dave Andreychuk in 2004 w Tampa Bay).
Defenseman Brooks Orpik is the only player on the Capitals who have won the Stanley Cup. He was on the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why Should the Golden Knights be your Stanley Cup Finals Betting Pick?
This marks the sixth Final in NHL history to feature two clubs each chasing their first-ever Stanley Cup. Either the Golden Knights or Capitals will become the 19th active franchise to win the Cup. The Golden Knights and Capitals each earned three series-clinching victories on the road, marking the first time in NHL history that two clubs reached the final in that fashion.
Vegas is the third team in NHL history to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in its inaugural season. The other two are the Toronto Arenas in 1918 and St. Louis Blues in 1968. The 1918 campaign was also the first of the NHL. As for St. Louis, that was the campaign when the NHL expanded from six teams to 12 and the West Division that the Blues came from was compromised entirely out of expansion teams. So those don’t really count.
The Knights will be well-rested as they haven’t played since last Sunday when they eliminated Winnipeg in five games. Vegas has lost just three games in these playoffs and none back-to-back. Only one loss came at home.
The Vegas GM is George McPhee, who surely will be named the NHL General Manager of the Year – he’s one of three finalists. McPhee was the Washington GM from 1997 until he was fired on April 26, 2014. He was replaced by long-time friend and former Bowling Green hockey teammate Brian MacLellan. McPhee drafted Ovechkin and about half the current Capitals were acquired in some fashion by him.
A couple of injury notes for Vegas entering the series. Winger William Carrier is still considered day-to-day. Coach Gerard Gallant hopes that Carrier will be ready to play soon. He has been sidelined since May 4 because of an undisclosed injury. Not a huge deal as Carrier only played 37 games during the season with a goal and two assists.
Malcolm Subban remains day-to-day. The 24-year-old netminder hasn’t been available since Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals because of an undisclosed injury. If he isn’t ready then Maxime Lagace will continue to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury’s understudy. So the Subban injury not huge, either, barring a Fleury injury.
Of course, Fleury won three Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and is one of the few players in this series with Cup experience. Fleury was in the Penguins’ net last season in the second round when he had a .921 save percentage, 2.58 goals-against average and one shutout in seven games against the Capitals.
It’s a great storyline regardless of who wins, but the Capitals in six should be your Stanley Cup Finals Betting pick.