Free Picks: Wild vs. Golden Knights, 2021 Stanley Cup Round 1

Curtis Rush
NHL Free Picks – Best Bets of the Week
Vegas Golden Knights vs Minnesota Wild NHL Stanley Cup 2021 Round 1
Minnesota Wild vs. Vegas Golden Knights, Round 1, Knights win series, 4-3

Series Results: Knights win series, 4-3

The Vegas Golden Knights went into Game 7 on Friday night looking vulnerable. They were shut out 3-0 by the Minnesota Wild in Game 6, handing the momentum to Minnesota.

But Vegas put the last game behind them and controlled Minnesota from the opening faceoff, winning in convincing fashion, 6-2, to close out the Wild and advance to Round 2 against the Colorado Avalanche.

The winning goal came off the stick of Max Pacioretty, who made his 2021 playoff debut after sitting out with an undisclosed injury. Forward Mattias Janmark scored three goals for Vegas, his last one into an empty net.

Game 1

May 16th, 7:30 p.m., T-Mobile Arena

Minnesota’s Cam Talbot is no slouch in goal either. In 23 career playoff starts, Talbot boasts a .923 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average, so I’m not willing to concede an edge to Vegas in the goaltending department just yet in Game 1 on Sunday.

The one weakness for Vegas is the number of injuries to key players. Max Pacioretty is the biggest concern. He led the club in goals with 24, but he missed the final six games of the regular season. Others who were injured include Ryan Reaves, Alex Tuch, Tomas Nosek and defenseman Alec Martinez.

The  best sports bet today is taking Minnesota with the Money Line. There are always upsets in the first round of the NHL postseason and I think the Wild are underrated. And with odds of +140, this could be a nice payday (bet $100 to win $10) if you believe in the Wild. But maybe a smaller unit would be the safe play. The Wild are 11-5 Straight Up in their last 16 games.

The NHL odds favor Vegas. But I also think taking Minnesota (+1.5) on the Puck Line (-193) is good value. I think the Wild either wins this game or covers as the road underdog. But go lightly here. The Wild are only 3-7 Against the Spread in their last 10 games.

The Over/Under set at 5.5 goals is a tossup. Playoff hockey is usually tight hockey, but these odds seem to favor the Over (-119) and I agree. I am taking the Over on Game 1. The Over has cashed in nine of Minnesota’s last 11 games.

For my Free Picks and predictions, I am leaning toward the Wild in Game 1 and not only because Vegas is beaten up. I like sensational forward Kirill Kaprizov, the 24-year-old Russian rookie who just might make a statement during these playoffs. He had a spectacular season with 27 goals and 24 assists. He’s been talked about as the type of player who can change a franchise.

The Golden Knights lost only 14 games during the regular season. But they had the most trouble in the West Division with Minnesota, going 3-4-1 in eight games.


Game 2 (Wild leads 1-0)

May 18, 10:00 p.m., T-Mobile Arena

Vegas is the No. 2 seed in the West Division and Minnesota is the third seed. Cam Talbot was spectacular in goal for the Wild in Game 1, making 42 saves, including 19 in the first period. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for Vegas.

The longer the Wild can hang in with the powerful Golden Knights the better I like Minnesota’s chances. Vegas is going to have to find ways to score without their leading goal-scorer, Max Pacioretty, who had 24 goals in the regular season. He has an undisclosed injury and did not play in Game 1.

Tomas Nosek replaced Pacioretty on the first line and had one shot in 14:40 of ice time. Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez returned after missing the final two games of the regular season. He blocked two shots in 22:13 of ice time. Vegas forward Ryan Reaves (undisclosed injury) had 10 hits and played 11:12 in his first game since April 11.

Teams that win Game 1 have a 68.8% chance of winning a best-of-seven series, so the pressure is squarely on Vegas to rebound before the odds get longer.

The best sports bet today is taking Vegas to win on the Money Line odds of (-180) with 10Bet. The Golden Knights are 6-0 in their last six games after scoring two goals or less in their previous game. But the Wild are 6-1 in the last seven meetings, so taking the Wild on the Money Line (+145) with10Bet is a bigger payout and offers the best value for a little more risk.

The NHL odds favor Vegas (-1.5) on the Puck Line (+152) with 10Bet but that’s a risky bet, so go lightly if you think Vegas can win by at least two goals. The implied odds say there is only a 39% chance of that happening.

When I’m making my Stanley Cup predictions, I pay special attention to the total goals market. In this market  (5.5), I think the smart play is the Under (-142) with 10Bet because the early trend suggests that goals in this series will be hard to come by with the quality of goaltending behind each team.

The Under is 5-1 in the Wild’s last six playoff games as an underdog. And the Under is 3-0-1 in Golden Knights’ last four games overall.




Game 3 (series tied 1-1)

May 20, 9:30 p.m., Xcel Energy Center

Marc-Andre Fleury may steal this series

The concern for the Minnesota Wild heading into Game 3 at home is whether Marc-Andre Fleury has gotten into their heads. Fleury seems almost unbeatable. And when he doesn’t block a shot, the defensemen are blocking shots for him.

Goaltender Cam Talbot is having a great series too for the Wild. He recorded 25 saves on Tuesday after making 42 saves in the 1-0 shutout win in Game 1. So, this series is clearly going to be decided on the goaltending.

The Wild controlled the play in each game, but each time they went on the attack, they ran into a brick wall in Fleury. The frustration level of the Minnesota forwards has got to be high.

Minnesota’s best scorer, rookie Kirill Kaprizov, who had 27 goals during the regular season, has been blanked so far in two games. He is playing over 18:00 a game and has a grand total of five shots on net in two games. Unless he gets untracked, the Wild appear to be doomed.

For my BetPicks, the safest bet to take for Game 3 is Vegas on the Money Line (-130) with 10Bet. The implied odds suggest a 57% chance of winning the game Straight Up. Vegas is 8-2 SU in their last 10 games on the road.

When I’m making my Picks and predictions, I look at total goals and trends. The way this series is going, I think the Under (5.5) is the play to make (-133) with 10Bet. The total has gone Under in four of Vegas’ last five games.

The offense of the Golden Knights is not the same without Max Pacioretty, a 24-goal scorer in the regular season. He is considered day-to-day.

The NHL odds favor Vegas on the Puck Line (-1.5) with 10Bet (+186), but considering how this series has played out so far, this is a risky bet, but with a big payout (bet $100 to win $186).

A slighter lower risk, but with a big payout is taking Minnesota (+110) with the Money Line. But go lightly if you think they have a better than 48% chance of winning Straight Up, which is what the implied odds suggest. Minnesota is 4-1 SU in their last five games when playing at home against Vegas.



Game 4 (Vegas leads 2-1)

May 22, 8:00 p.m., Xcel Energy Center

Golden Knights rally against the Wild

Mark Stone scored twice for Vegas on Thursday for his first goals of the postseason, while Reilly Smith and William Karlsson each had a goal and an assist. Marc-Andre Fleury made his third straight start and made only 14 saves in his worst performance of the playoffs (.875 save percentage).

Stone has been pressing, but now look for him to heat up. Reilly Smith also scored again. He’s been snake-bitten all year and looks like he’s also starting to heat up.

Vegas trailed 2-0 entering the second period. Vegas was 0-for-5 on the power play, but that allowed Vegas to keep the puck away from their own goal for big chunks of time during the second and third periods.

The Golden Knights outshot the Wild 22-5 in the second period and scored three goals. Vegas has been resilient all year. They were one of the few teams that didn’t lose three in a row during the regular season.

Cam Talbot made 35 saves for the Wild. The players didn’t blame him. They said they got away from their game and let Vegas dictate the game.

Wild forward Marcus Johansson left in the first period after crashing into the net. His status is not known for Saturday.

For Vegas, Max Pacioretty and Tomas Nosek did not play. Each was a game-time decision.

For my BetPicks, I think Vegas wins 4-2. The Wild are just not showing enough offense with only four goals in three games.

When I’m making my Picks and predictions, I look at main markets looking for value. And I see great value on the Puck Line and in total goals.

The NHL odds are making Vegas (-1.5) the favorite on the Puck Line (+200). I think Vegas will win by at least two goals, that’s a bet that I’m willing to take (bet $100 to win $200). But be careful. Vegas is 4-6 ATS in their last 10 games.

I also like the Over (5.5) in goals (+105), although two of the three previous games have been low scoring. The total has gone Under in four of Vegas’ last six games.

I also don’t think you can go wrong taking Vegas (-120) on the Money Line with 10Bet, although Vegas is 3-6 SU in their last nine games against Minnesota. The Wild are 1-4 SU in their last five games.

But if Minnesota is going to win a game in this series, I think the best odds of that happening are in Game 4, so taking the Wild on the Money Line (+100) with 10Bet is worth a small-unit play.



Game 5 (Vegas leads 3-1)

May 24, 10:30 p.m., T-Mobile Arena

Golden Knights can finish off the Wild on Monday

Marc-Andre Fleury  has allowed four goals on 116 shots in the series. Overall, it was the best game of the series for Vegas. The Wild were outshot 35-18.

Cam Talbot made 14 saves for the Wild, who have now lost three straight after not losing more than two in a row during the regular season. Zach Parise made his series debut after being a healthy scratch the first three games. He was a minus-2 with two shots on goal in 12:17 of ice time.

Minnesota is 0-for-8 on the power play in this series. Teams that lead 3-1 are 291-29 (.909 winning percentage) to take the best-of-seven series, including going 13-0 last season.

For Vegas, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Nosek and defenseman Brayden McNabb did not play due to undisclosed injuries.

For my Bet Picks, I am looking at the Puck Line, Money Line and Total goals.

My NHL picks today are in favor of Vegas on the Money Line (-165) with 10Bet. It’s one of the safer bets you can make. Vegas is 4-1 SU in their last five games.

The only one safer is taking the Wild (+1.5) on the Puck Line (-195) with 10Bet. They will likely lose, but they will be a desperate team and might keep this to within one goal. The Wild are 1-3 ATS in their last 10 games. Vegas is 2-3 ATS at home in their last 10 games.

The Stanley Cup odds have Vegas favored (-1.5) on the Puck Line. This is a risky bet (+152) but if you think Vegas can open up the game again, a $100 bet will pay $152. The implied odds suggest a 39% chance of that happening.

Taking the Wild Straight Up is also a risky play (+135), so go lightly on the underdog here. The Wild are 1-4 SU in their last five games this season.

The odds favor the Under (-133) and I think that’s the safer play, while the Over (+105) will get you a bigger return. The total has gone Under in five of Vegas’ last seven games.



Game 6 (Vegas leads series 3-2)

May 26, 09:00 p.m., Excel Energy Center

Cam Talbot gave Minnesota solid goaltending, making 38 saves on Monday. In the Vegas goal, Marc-Andre Fleury had an off night, making only 10 saves. It was his worst game of the playoffs as he posted a substandard .769 save percentage.

The Wild got off to a strong start, taking a 3-1 first-period lead. They got an emotional lift from Zach Parise, who scored to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. Parise had been a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series.

Vegas has been good at clawing back when they’re down. The Golden Knights outshot the Wild 22-1 in the second period but scored only once to trim the Wild lead to 3-2. They put the game away with an empty-net goal.

Overall, Vegas outshot the Wild 40-14. In the series, the Golden Knights have outscored Minnesota 14-8, so I just don’t see the Wild mounting a comeback in this series.

When I’m making my NHL playoff picks, I look at the Money Line, Puck Line and the Over/Under.

Looking at this Stanley Cup playoffs prediction, I think Vegas comes back strong in Game 6.  I think betting on Vegas will be your best NHL bet for this game with 10Bet (-140) on the Money Line.

For those who think the Wild can turn this momentum into another win, taking the Wild (+110, 10Bet) Straight Up pays better.

But I am confident in Vegas for this NHL playoff pick because, as Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said, if you replay this game, nine times out of 10, Vegas comes out on top.

Vegas has been handicapped without Max Pacioretty, who missed his 11th straight game (undisclosed). Forward Tomas Nosek was out of the lineup (undisclosed) for his fourth straight game.

The safest bet is Minnesota (+1.5) on the Puck Line (-233, 10Bet). But the payout is also the smallest on the main markets ($42 on a $100 bet).

The riskiest play is taking Vegas (-1.5) on the Puck Line (+179, 10Bet) to win by at least two goals. But I think Vegas covers because Vegas has won by at least two goals in three of the five games.

In total goals, it’s almost a coin flip. But I would favor the Over (5.5) with 10Bet (-104) for a slightly higher payout than the Under (-122).


Game 7 (Series tied 3-3)

May 28, 09:00 p.m., T-Mobile Arena

The Vegas Golden Knights suddenly seem vulnerable. They were shut out 3-0 by the Minnesota Wild and have to go to a Game 7 at home on Friday in Vegas.

The scoring has dried up for Vegas. They have scored only two goals in the last two games. The Wild, who are not a big scoring team, have actually outscored Vegas 7-2 over the past two games. At one point in the series, down 3-1, they looked dead.

But these Wild players are pesky checkers and are not giving Vegas shooters much room out there. I think Vegas is missing forward Max Pacioretty more than I realized. Pacioretty was the club’s leading goal scorer during the regular season, but he hasn’t played in the playoffs yet with an undisclosed injury.

Mark Stone is Vegas’ leading scorer in the series with four goals, but he didn’t even get a shot on goal on Wednesday. I was once worried about Minnesota’s offense. I didn’t think it could keep up with Vegas. But what they’ve done is scored by committee. Nine different players have scored goals in this series.

Suddenly, the momentum has swung to Minnesota, even though Vegas is at home. And I think Cam Talbot is on a roll in the Minnesota net. Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has seemed slightly off his game over the past two contests.

I’m becoming a believer in Minnesota. They are fast and tenacious. But Vegas is due for a rebound. It’s hard to believe they could lose three games in a row and blow the series, but they did have one three-game losing streak in the regular season.

When I’m making my NHL playoff picks, I look at the Money Line, Puck Line and the Over/Under.

I still think the best sports bet today is taking Minnesota with the Money Line (+135, 10Bet). But Vegas on the Money Line (-170, 10Bet) is a safer bet because Vegas is still favored and they are at home.

On the Puck Line, I think the lean is to the Wild (+1) with 10Bet (-127) because even though Minnesota may lose, I don’t see them losing by more than a goal.

On total goals, the safest bet is with the Under (5.5) with 10Bet (-142) because there is no room out there to score goals. I see the Wild winning 3-2, maybe in overtime.

Looking at this Stanley Cup playoffs prediction, I think Minnesota fights all the way back in Game 7.

I am confident in Minnesota for this NHL playoff pick because the playoffs are all about momentum, and Minnesota has the momentum now.



have always wanted to be a writer and sports are my favorite thing in the world, so I combined the two to make a career. I have been a long-time gambler and sports betting writer that isn't afraid to look at the underdog or specials. I am covering the NHL, MLB and NCAA Football for and am a huge fan of both sports - as well as many others. Follow me on Twitter (@Patrick_Trudeau) so we can talk betting, sports, or why ketchup DOES belong on Poutine.