The Anaheim Ducks and Vegas Golden Knights will open their 2021 NHL campaign Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, so here’s my best betting pick for this West Division showdown along with the latest odds on DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Ducks and Golden Knights will meet each other eight times this season due to the reorganization of the league’s structure and schedule. These two old foes from the Pacific Division know each other well, so let’s see what we can expect from them in the opener.
Anaheim aims for its first playoff appearance in three years
The Anaheim Ducks finished the previous season at the sixth spot of the Pacific Division with a 29-33-9 record. They failed to qualify for the expanded playoffs, missing the postseason for the second straight year.
Anaheim had the third-lowest scoring offense in the NHL this past regular season, scoring just 2.56 goals per game. Also, the Ducks averaged only 29.7 shots per game (27th in the league). On the other side, they were surrendering 3.15 goals per contest (27th).
Centers Adam Henrique, Ryan Getzlaf, and Rickard Rakell led the way for the Ducks last term. Henrique was the teams’ top scorer with 43 points, tallying 26 goals and 17 assists, while Getzlaf and Rakell added 42 points each.
Goalie John Gibson will be the first option for the Ducks once more. He went 20-26-5 last season while posting a 3.00 GAA and a .904 save percentage along with one shutout.
Vegas hopes for another successful season
I know that the Golden Knights seek for the championship, but reaching the Western Conference Finals in the bubble was a success, no doubt. They lost to the Dallas Stars in five games after eliminating Chicago and Vancouver, while the Knights finished the regular season atop of the Pacific Division with a 39-24-8 record.
Vegas was 13th in the league in goals against this past regular season, allowing 2.94 per game. The Golden Knights had the 13th-highest-scoring offense, tallying 3.15 goals per contest while taking 34.5 shots on average (1st in the NHL).
Winger Max Pacioretty was a key guy for the Knights last season, scoring the team-high 32 goals along with 34 assists. RW Mark Stone had 63 points in just 65 appearances (21 goals and 42 assists), while RW Reilly Smith added 27 goals and 27 assists.
Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner will guard the cage for Vegas this season, and it’s hard to predict who’ll get more chances to patrol the crease. Lehner was the first choice in the previous postseason, going 9-7 with a 1.99 GAA and a .917 save percentage. The Knights signed the former St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo in the offseason, and the 30-year-old defenseman should be a great reinforcement.Trends:
- 6-14 in the last 20 games played in January
- 1-7 in the last eight games against Vegas
- 5-1 in the last six home games against Anaheim
- 8-1 in the last nine games on the home ice
The Winner Prediction
The Golden Knights opened as firm favorites for Thursday’s clash against the Ducks with their moneyline odds at -205, while Anaheim is listed as a +185 underdog to win straight up. I cannot argue with the bookies, as on paper, the Golden Knights are a much better team than the Ducks.
It’s always hard to make the right predictions in the first game of the season, but betting on the Golden Knights to win by two or more goals seems like the best option here. Vegas has so many dangerous weapons offensively, while the Ducks look like they’ll be struggling to score once again.
Pick: Take Vegas -1.5 at +120
The last four encounters between the Ducks and Golden Knights went in the over, producing seven or more goals in total each. I expect to see another high-scoring affair Thursday night, as both teams should have some problems defending well at the start of the season.
Still, I’ve mentioned how dangerous the Golden Knights’ offense was last season, and I’m looking for more of the same this term. They’ve scored five or more goals in three of their last four matchups with the Ducks. Anaheim has found the net at least twice in each of those four contests.
Pick: Go over 5.5 goals at -125