The 2018 Stanley Cup match-up is one virtually no-one predicted at the beginning of the year. The amazing run of the expansion Golden Knights is the main story but on the other side is the long suffering Washington Capitals and their fans. You can make a case for both sides and the storylines write themselves. Will Ovechkin cement his status as one the best goal scorers ever with a long awaited cup win? Will this unbelievable Vegas Knights team pull off one of the biggest surprises in sports history. Here’s what we think will happen:
Stanley Cup Finals Match-Up
Washington Capitals vs Las Vegas Golden Knights
Western Conference Champions – Las Vegas Golden Knights
How they got here:
Playoff Record: 12 wins and 3 loses
Vegas have played brilliant hockey in every round of this year’s playoff (and most of the season). Somehow, they seem to have carried the underdog tag with them, even though they were the Pacific Division champions. Gerard Gallant’s coaching tactics have taken his team back to basic hockey, and it is working as the players have bought in to his system brilliantly. The Golden Knights style of play is defence first, followed by hitting on the counter attack with great speed and a direct approach to the goal.
Vegas’s top line of Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith are scoring consistently in every series and scoring the important game-winning goals. This top line is by no means playing alone for the Golden Knights. Vegas’s other three lines are also chipping in with goals while playing a strong defensive game. They role out 4 lines like no other team in the league and they all can score goals. However, the real star of this team is no other then Marc-Andre Fleury. With his solid goaltending, he is the main reason the Las Vegas Golden Knights are in the Stanley Cup Finals and the hands on favourite to win the MVP award.
Eastern Conference Champions – Washington Capitals
How they got here:
Playoff Record: 12 wins and 7 loses
The Washington Capitals entered this year’s playoff with Stanley cup aspirations as they have every year previous. In past playoffs, the Capitals were known for always disappointing and falling well short of the Cup. In fact, they were largely dismissed this year for that very reason, we all stopped believing they could get it done. In the first round the Caps did not start current starter Holtby in goal, Grubauer was the one who got the call. After going down two games to zero, the Capitals made the switch and Holtby got the start. This change of in goal was the beginning of improved fortunes for Washington. Except for Fleury of Vegas, Holtby has been the best goalie in the playoffs. His solid play is a very big reason the Capitals have reached the Cup finals.
In round two, Washington faces their playoff nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Before this year, the Capitals had not beaten Pittsburgh in the playoffs since 1994. The Penguins, Capitals series was back and forth and the star players on both teams took charge. In the end, Washington’s star players Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Holtby won the series for the Capitals. In the conference finals, Washington did not play with the same intensity they had versus Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay went into this series as favourites however Washington was not letting this opportunity pass them by. In the first five games it was a very hard-fought series. In game six and seven, the Capitals lead by Ovechkin and Holtby (Holtby had a shutout in both these games) shut down the Lightning and booked only their second ever ticket to the Stanley Cup finals, in search of their 1st Cup victory for the franchise.
My Top 5 Bets for the Stanley Cup Final
1) Who Will Win The Stanley Cup Final?
The first team that made the finals this year was the ever-surprising team of misfits, the Vegas Golden Knights. This new franchise has been defying odds ever since day one in this, their first ever season in the NHL. They will face the Eastern Champions, the Washington Capitals. Washington are in only their second ever Cup final. Both these teams have had great season and both these teams where not predicted to be in the Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams have the weapons the speed to win this series and both teams have the goalies to save the series. This year, the Vegas story will not stop short with just an appearance in the final, they will get their hands-on Lord Stanley.
Bovada has Las Vegas at -140 and the favourites to take the series and they are my pick to win the Stanley Cup.
2) Who Will Win The Conn Smythe Trophy?
There have been a few players that have led their respective teams to the finals, but I think most of us agree, if Vegas wins or loses the Cup, Marc-Andre Fleury will win the Conn Smythe trophy this season. His amazing goals against average of 1.68 with a save percentage of 0.947 going into these finals is unbelievable. Outside options for the Conn Smythe playing for Vegas will be Karlsson and Marchessault who are taking control of the offence. If you want to look at the Capitals players, there will only be two players in contention. First would be the inspirational leader and goal scorer, Ovechkin. The stronger option and the second-best bet behind Fleury is Holtby. Bovada has Holtby at +400. The battle for the Conn Smythe will come down to the two goalies. The goalie that wins the series should get the trophy, but I would not bet against Fleury.
3) Best Player Prop Bet – Marc-Andre Fleury To Get A Shutout
Bovada has this bet at +160 for a yes. This bet is not paying big returns however; the way Fleury and Vegas are playing this year, this will be a good bet. Fleury already has a playoff leading four shutouts this year and he is playing the best hockey of his career. He will win the Conn Smythe and I’m guessing he should achieve another shutout on the way to do so.
4) Series Correct Score
When it gets to this point of the playoffs, it is hard choosing a winner. So, predicting how many games the series will go, is even harder. Since I have gone with the Golden Knights to win the series, I will also back that bet with this one. Looking at Vegas’s previous rounds, they have gone four games in the first round, six games in the second round and five games in the conference finals. In the Stanley Cup finals, the Vegas Golden Knights will win this series in five games.
This bet is a bit of a longshot but Bovada is paying well for this result at +500. An additional bet in this category is to take the Vegas Golden Knights to win in six games. If this occurs, Bovada is paying +450.
5) Top Goalscorer in the Stanley Cup Final
While I’m picking Vegas to win it all, the thing about this team is they spread the scoring around. When you role out 4 lines consistently no one player dominates the goal scoring, they all contribute equally. That’s why for this bet I’m looking at Capitals players only as I think only a couple of them are going to score often against Vegas.
The easy bet is Ovechkin at +225 on BetOnline and I may sprinkle a few bucks on him. I’m going bigger on Kuznetsov at +275 because if the Knights manage to shut down Ovie (which they are capable of) I think Kuznetsov will be the beneficiary and score at least 3 or 4 goals this series.