Golden Knights vs Capitals – NHL Game 4 Pick for June 4th
Something happened along the way to Vegas’ fairytale Stanley Cup ending, the Washington Capitals stepped in and decided that they don’t care for fairytales and are on a mission to bring the Cup back to the East Coast. After Game 1’s exciting 10 goal outburst, the two teams have slowed things down to combine for 9 goals total in the last two games. You would think the low scoring would benefit the Golden Knights, but it has actually benefitted the Capitals who have a 2-1 lead in the series and are looking to take command of the Stanley Cup Finals by winning Game 4 tonight.
It’s surprising to say, but Washington’s Braden Holtby has actually outplayed Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury over the last two games. In Games 2 and 3, Holtby has posted a 1.5 gpg and a .952 save percentage. Fleury has allowed 3 gpg and has a .885 save percentage. For the series, Fleury has a .875 save percentage and has given up 10 goals over 3 games. This is certainly a drop off from his stellar play leading up to the Finals.
For Vegas to tie up the series, it starts with Fleury putting the Capitals on lockdown. He can’t allow more than two goals and he really needs to set the tone right from the start. Defensively, the Golden Knights need to pick up the slack and really do a better job with preventing Washington from getting some of these clean shots on net.
Offensively, Vegas needs to capitalize on their shots on goal and power plays. In Games 2 and 3, Vegas had 61 total shots on goal, but only 3 goals to show for it. Their power play is also 1-of-7 during those two games. If they’re not going to be able to score on Holtby when it’s 5-on-5 hockey then they definitely need to convert when they have the man advantage.
Vegas dominated the stat sheet in Game 2, but lost 3-2. Then they go on the road and get dominated in the stat sheet and lose 3-1. Washington won 62.9% of the faceoffs in Game 3 and outhit Vegas 38 to 31. Perhaps, the biggest stat that tells the tale of Game 3 is Washington’s ability to block shots. Not only did Holtby stop 21 of 22 shots, but the defense blocked 26 shots compared to just 9 by Vegas.
In other words, Washington is doing all the little things to win the game while Vegas is hoping that Fleury can make up the difference. It hasn’t worked out that way and the team needs to change up their plan off attack otherwise Washington is going to win Game 4 and the series.
For the Capitals, they just need to keep doing what they’re doing. Other than putting more pucks on the net, there’s nothing else they need to really improve on. Their level of play from Game 2 to Game 3 showed their capabilities to adjust and clean up mistakes. Ovechkin nailed his 14th goal of the postseason and now has 25 total points. Kutznetsov, who was questionable for Game 3, made his presence felt and now has 27 total points in the playoffs.
Vegas needs to come out and play like the desperate team that they are. If Washington goes up 3-1 then this series is pretty much over. I expect Vegas to play much better in Game 4 compared to Game 3 and I see them tying up the series behind an improved offensive performance and Fleury outdueling Holtby.
Although I believe Vegas will win outright, let’s go with the spread here and play this one safe. Vegas has dropped two in a row for the first time these playoffs, so we’re in unchartered waters right now with the fairytale Golden Knights.
Vegas is 13-5 SU in their last 18 games, 6-3 SU in their last 9 road games and 6-3 ATS in their last 9 road games. Vegas 5-0 SU in their last 5 games on Monday, 20-6 SU in their last 26 games after scoring 2 goals or less in the previous game, and 16-5 SU in their last 21 games against a team with a winning record.
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