On the afternoon of New Years Eve, the Vegas Golden Knights were facing the Toronto Maple Leafs and were competing with the final regular season of the NFL for viewers and sports bettors alike. While the televisions at one sports book off the Las Vegas Strip was showing all the football games, one large screen was reserved for hockey.
No one in the casino seemed to mind, and when the team scored there were noticeable cheers coming from several customers.
“It’s unheard of that an NHL game would be more important than an NFL game,” one sports book employee said. “This team is doing it. This town has gone crazy for them.”
The newest team in the NHL is rewriting league history, and sports betting fans seem to be enjoying the ride. Thursday is the end of the first half of the season, and the Knights are hosting the New York Islanders before the All Star break. If they win at -220, they’re guaranteed to have at worst the second-best record in the league. If Tampa Bay loses against Philadelphia, the upstarts from Sin City will have the best record in hockey.
When the Golden Knights began the season in October, oddsmakers gave them little chance of success. They were a 200/1 pick to win the Stanley Cup and a 100/1 choice to win the Western Conference, last in both categories.
Then the year began, and the team started winning, and they didn’t seem to have any inclination to stop. The Golden Knights set a record for expansion teams when it won its first three games of the season. They then set another mark for strong starts with victories in their first eight of nine games.
The team is currently 32-11-4. If the Las Vegas favorites beat the New York Islanders Thursday, they will tie the best ever record for a first-year club, held by the 1993-94 Florida Panthers at 33-34-17, with more than two months still left to play.
At the start of the season, Las Vegas sports books had set the over/under on total victories for the year at 24.5, with odds at 6/1 on the over. Just two months in, the Golden Knights were 22-9. They hit the over when they defeated the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 28, a month before the season’s halfway point.
Oddsmakers soon realized this new Vegas team was for real and started to adjust the lines accordingly. In December, the Golden Knights went from 200/1 to 14/1 to win the Stanley Cup, and from 100/1 to 7/1 to win the Western Conference.
They line got adjusted again this month, and they are now the favorite at Station Casinos to win the title at 3/1. Tampa Bay is next at 4/1. The Lightning also dropped in the race for the Western Conference where they are the top pick at 5/1.
Many betting beneficiaries of the Golden Knights run have been single game bettors. The team is 30-16 straight up, second only to Tampa Bay. At home they are almost unbeatable with a league-leading 19-5 record at T-Mobile Arena.
Their latest victim was the Columbus Blue Jackets, who got crushed handily by the Knights on Tuesday, 6-3. It was enough to have coach John Tortorella eyeing the ultimate prize, saying his players had the look of a Stanley Cup contender.
“They are a confident team, they’re winning games, ”Tortorella said. “Everyone is contributing. It’s easy to feel relaxed when it’s going that way.”