Over the course of a gruelling 82-game season, it’s only natural for NHL players to let up their focus and intensity from time to time. Heck, you could even argue that it’s smart not to bring 100% effort to the rink every night during the regular season, knowing that you’ll still need some fuel left in the tank for the meaningful games in the playoffs. We’ve seen many teams over the years keep their pedal to the metal to finish high in the standings, only to burn out when the postseason came around. (Different sport but, Golden State Warriors, I’m looking at you.)

But just like there are spots in the schedule where teams will let up a bit (usually when playing a weaker opponent or a squad they don’t have much of a rivalry with), there are also times during the year when teams bring a little bit extra to the table. That’s exactly what the situation looks like tonight for the Winnipeg Jets as they host the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time since having their Stanley Cup dreams dashed by the Knights in last year’s playoffs.

Will the Jets get the revenge they so desperately crave, or will the Golden Knights add another pelt to their impressive collection? Not only is this game must-watch TV for any NHL fan, it’s also a contest in which I feel we’ve got enough of an edge to make a wager on as well. In fact, the edge is significant enough in my opinion that I’ve circled this game on my own personal calendar to make it my NHL pick of the week.

Vegas Golden Knights/Winnipeg Jets Betting Odds

The history between the Golden Knights and Jets is obviously a short one, since last year was Vegas’ first season in the NHL. But by the standards of last year’s betting lines when these two teams met in Winnipeg, oddsmakers are offering quite the cheap price on the host Jets in this matchup.

Winnipeg is just -128 on the moneyline at the time of writing, while Vegas was only +134 to pull off the road upset. To put that into perspective, the Jets were nearly -200 favorites when these teams met in Winnipeg during the regular season last year (granted, that was before the Knights established themselves as a legitimate power), and Winnipeg was chalk of -145 or higher in each of the three playoff matchups in Manitoba as well.

The Jets have had totals of 6 or higher in all but three of their games so far this year, and that trend continues here as we see a total of 6 in this matchup. The Over comes with a -115 price tag (which may be worth it, since Vegas has gone Over in 12 of its 18 games with a total of 6 or higher), but an Under bet pays better than even money (+103 at the time of writing).

Puck line betting in evenly-priced matchups can be extra lucrative when you like the favorite to post a comfortable victory, so if you like the Jets, you may want to consider the +193 return on the -1.5 puck line rather than laying juice on the moneyline. The Golden Knights rarely go down without a fight, though, and catching +1.5 with a feisty Vegas team is always tempting — although you’ll have to pay -215 juice to get it.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 9:00 p.m. eastern on January 14, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

Knights Rolling Along After Slow Start

Even when the Golden Knights were battling for top spot in the Western Conference last season, there was no shortage of skeptics waiting for the bubble to burst. Expansion teams are never supposed to even contend for the playoffs in their inaugural season, let alone be one of the league’s top seeds. But if you were stubbornly fading the Knights last year because they weren’t supposed to be good, you probably lost a ton. Not only did Vegas win the Pacific Division, the Knights then proceeded to steamroll through the Kings, Sharks and Jets to reach the Stanley Cup final, losing just three games in those three series combined.

However, after losing that Cup final to Washington in an anti-climactic five-game series, many expected the Knights to come crashing back down to earth this season. In addition to drastically overachieving in everyone’s minds last year, the Knights were also vulnerable to a potential hangover effect, and that may have been why Vegas stumbled out of the gate this year. Through their first 20 games, the Knights were just 8-11-1, looking nothing like the confident bunch that shocked us all in 2017-18.

I’m not sure what happened to turn things around at that point, but the Knights have quietly been one of the league’s best teams since the middle of November. Vegas comes into action tonight with a record of 28-16-4, meaning that the Knights are 20-5-3 in their last 28. That said, much of that damage has been done in the friendly confines of T-Mobile Arena (Vegas is 15-4-3) at home, an advantage that the Knights won’t enjoy tonight.

Jets Tough At Home Again This Season

Before we get into a breakdown of the Jets, a quick geography lesson for any of you who aren’t that familiar with Canada. Winnipeg is a small and isolated city located in the lonely Canadian prairies, adjacent to Lake Winnipeg. There’s only one other pro sports team to cheer for in Winnipeg, and that’s the Canadian Football League’s Blue Bombers, whose season ends before the winter begins. And if there’s one other thing to know about Winnipeg, it’s that it gets pretty damn cold in the winter, especially when the wind howls across the lake.

That explains why Winnipeg Jets fans are known to be among the most passionate fan bases in the NHL, especially in their second existence (the first edition of the Jets moved to Arizona in the 1990s, gutting this city emotionally for nearly two decades). And the Jets have rewarded their fans for all of that emotional support in recent years, consistently posting one of the league’s best home records. In fact, Winnipeg has won 60 of its last 81 home games, a winning percentage of nearly .750 over a full two-year span! This season is no different, with the Jets tasting regulation time defeat in just six of their first 25 home contests (17-6-2 record).

That love affair the Jets fans have with their team is another reason this is such a big game for the Winnipeg players tonight. Playoff success had always eluded the Jets over the years, dating back to their days in the Smythe Division when they consistently had to face the powerful Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. That’s why last year’s playoff run — when the Jets overwhelmed Minnesota in the opening round and then stunned Nashville in a seven-game series — was such a thrill for Winnipeg fans. But once Jets fans began to get excited about the possibility of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, the Knights dashed their dreams with a dominating five-game win over Winnipeg, clinching the series with a 2-1 victory on the Jets’ home ice in Game 5.

That means Winnipeg’s fans will bring a bit of extra emotion and energy to the rink tonight as well, not just the players. Not like the Jets need much help the way they’ve been playing lately, having won five of their last seven games overall and four straight at home. And while it’s true that Winnipeg is playing its fourth game in six days tonight (usually a very disadvantageous scheduling spot for NHL teams), the Jets have actually thrived in this situation recently, winning seven of their last eight games when in a 4-in-6 spot.

Vegas Golden Knights at Winnipeg Jets Betting Pick

Whenever you see a cheaper-than-expected price on a favorite that you like, it can be a bit unsettling. It makes you wonder what angle you’re missing, what you’re not taking into consideration, or whether the oddsmakers “know something” that you don’t.

In this case, however, I can understand why the bookies were hesitant to favor Winnipeg by more than they did. Vegas has been really hot for the past two months, the Jets are playing a 4-in-6, and they’re also banged up on the blueline with Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien both out of the lineup these days (Myers is listed as questionable for this one as he nurses a lower-body injury).

A short price on the Jets isn’t enough to dissuade me from absolutely loving Winnipeg in this spot. The emotional energy that the Jets players and fans will bring to Bell MTS Place tonight is going to be awfully difficult for the Golden Knights to overcome, especially as a team that hasn’t been much better than average this year when playing away from Vegas. The Jets exact their revenge for last year’s disappointing playoff loss with a convincing victory here. I’m personally playing Winnipeg -128 on the moneyline, but I’ll also have a piece of the Jets -1.5 +195 on the puck line.

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