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Golden Knights vs Rangers
8* NY Rangers (7:05 ET): For some time now, I’ve been saying that this “dream start” for the Vegas Golden Knights was bound to hit a downturn and last night we saw what may have been the start as they lost 6-3 to the Islanders. While you must tip your cap to an expansion franchise that starts its inaugural season w/ eight wins in its first nine games, note the VERY friendly scheduling they received. The team had played seven straight times in Sin City prior to last night and six of its first nine games overall were against non-playoff teams from a year ago. Two were against league-worst Arizona. Something else I made mention of in yday’s analysis was that the Knights’ extraordinary shooting percentage so far (15.6% L5 games!). That’s bound to start coming down, plus the team’s current goaltending situation is in major flux. As you can tell, I’m on the other side Tuesday.
The other side here would be the Rangers, who are off to an ugly 3-7-2 start and in last place in the Metro. Their latest loss came Saturday, 5-4 at Montreal. Truly stunning is that the Blueshirts have played the majority of their games at home so far and yet have such a poor overall record. They’re 3-4-2 at MSG, which is admittedly better than their 0-3 road record. They were badly outshot Saturday by the Habs (43-26), but I was at least impressed by the way they fought back from an early 3-0 deficit to tie the game at 4-4. One good thing is that they are 34-22 the L3 seasons following a game where they allowed 4+ goals. All three wins this year have come in this situation.
Let’s be sure to remember that last season saw the Rangers finish w/ 102 points. I simply refuse to believe they’ve fallen as hard as it appears here in the early going. One of the big issues so far is the shockingly poor play of Henrik Lundqvist, whose save percentage (.900) and goals against average (3.11) this season are well below his career marks. But after being given the L2 games off, I expect a big bounce back performance from “Henrik The Great” between the pipes tonight. Meanwhile, Vegas is down to its FOURTH string goaltender here as Marc-Andre Fleury remains out (concussion) as is Malcolm Subban (lower-body injury). The team’s third-string option, Oscar Dansk, was a recent AHL call-up, but he too suffered a lower-body injury last night. That leaves Maxime Legace as the team’s only real option left and he did not look good when called into duty last night, giving up four goals on just 11 shots. Vegas has been a great story so far, but I have a feeling that reality is about to set in. 8* NY Rangers
Miami-OH vs Ohio
8* Ohio (8:00 ET): Miami-Ohio is actually one of the MAC’s top rivalries. Known as “The Battle of the Bricks,” Ohio has won 10 of the previous 11 matchups and LY’s 17-7 victory in Oxford was the tiebreaker that allowed Frank Solich’s Bobcats advancing to the Conference Championship Game. (Both teams went 6-2 SU in conference play). Coming into this year’s meeting, Ohio finds itself w/ the top overall record among MAC East teams (6-2), but they’re one-half game back of Akron for the division lead. Miami has been one of the bigger disappointments in the country as they’re only 3-5 SU after ending LY on a six-game win streak (excluding bowl). The RedHawks have been favored in almost all of their games (w/ Notre Dame being the only exception), but here they look to be “up against it” especially if QB Gus Ragland is again unable to play. Lay the points.
Ohio lost an early season TV game, at Purdue, 44-21. They were actually just a short dog in that game, despite being the road team against a Big 10 opponent. Three consecutive victories followed, but then the Bobcats were upset at Central Michigan, losing 26-20 as 10-pt chalk. But now, they can again make it three straight wins following a loss as the L2 games have brought B2B 48-point efforts, including an annihilation of Kent State two Saturdays ago, 48-3. The OU defense allowed only 166 total yards in that game. The Bobcats have covered the spread in all six wins this season and gone 5-1 SU/ATS as favorites. Over the L3 seasons, they’ve won 17 of the 22 games in which they’ve been favored.
The last two years have seen the Miami offense manage a total of only 10 points against this Ohio defense. If they again have to go w/out Ragland, I don’t like the underdogs chances here. But even w/ their starting QB, there’s no guarantee of improved play. The team is only 2-4 SU/ATS w/ Ragland as the starter this year and that includes an awful home loss to Bowling Green, who hasn’t beaten anybody else this year. I get that it’s desperation time for the RedHawks, who must win three of their final four games just to be bowl eligible. But they’re up against the best team in their division here, possibly w/o their starting QB, and Ohio is outscoring opponents by more than four touchdowns per game here in Athens. I’m not buying any kind of defensive resurgence for Miami here, even though they’ve allowed just 31 pts total the L2 games. They were fortunate to be +2 in turnover differential in the 24-14 win over Buffalo 10 days ago. It’s not as if the RedHawks’ schedule has been all that challenging to this point, so the fact that they’re 3-6 SU is pretty ominous, especially since Ohio is the best team they will have faced since the Notre Dame game. 8* Ohio
Thunder vs Bucks
8* Milwaukee (8:05 ET): Two teams w/ lofty 2017-18 expectations meet in Milwaukee Tuesday as the Bucks host the Thunder. OKC is coming off a whitewashing of Chicago, 101-69 on the road, but let’s keep in mind the opponent there and the fact that the Thunder are still only 3-3 SU on the young season w/ their three wins coming against three very bad Eastern Conference teams (Knicks, Pacers, Thunder). As for Milwaukee, they’ve lost to Cleveland and Boston, a sign that they may not be ready to leap into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference just yet. But I like the value here on them at home as this will be the 1st time since the season opener (won 108-100 over Boston) that they are NOT favored. OKC has its version of a “Big 3” this year (Westbrook, Anthony, George), but Milwaukee has the NBA’s leading scorer in Giannis Antetokounmpo (34.7 PPG) and he just may be the best player on the court tonight, which is saying something.
Coming off a lopsided result like Saturday may not bode well here for the Thunder. They are just 3-8 ATS the L3 seasons after a game where they held the opponent to 85 points or less. They may not have an opponent shoot as poorly as the Bulls (28.2%) did Saturday, the rest of the season. It’s interesting that in all three wins this year, OKC’s opponent has shot the ball horrendously, including a 33.7% effort from Indiana last week. Opponents will certainly not go on shooting under 42% for the year against the Thunder, so take those defensive numbers w/ a “grain of salt.” Facing the league’s leading scorer is bound to affect those defensive numbers. Antetokounmpo has scored 30 or more pts in five of the first six games and additionally is averaging 10.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. No player in league history had ever previously averaged 34-10-5 over his team’s first six games!
Now OKC has Russell Westbrook, who already has three triple doubles in the first six games, also a first in league history. But lost in the fact that the Thunder have benefited from some truly horrific shooting performances from their opponents is the fact they haven’t shot the ball all that well themselves. Only once this year have they shot 50.0% in a game. Every other game has seen them at 48% or below. Tonight, they face a team that is third in the league in both effective FG% and true shooting percentage. I’m not ready to buy into OKC as any kind of defensive stalwart yet and w/ this being their third road game in five nights, I see them struggling to stop the “Greek Freak” and company. 8* Milwaukee
Astros vs Dodgers
10* Under Astros/Dodgers (8:15 ET): Game 5 of the 2017 World Series was one for the ages as the Astros prevailed 13-12 in 10 innings to take a 3-2 series lead. Really, it was a “must win” for the American League Champs with Game 6 and Game 7 (if necessary) to be played at Dodgers Stadium. In my analysis for the 1st two games of this series, I went into great detail about the “park effect” as Chavez Ravine was #1 in MLB during the regular season for visitor run suppression. While Houston was the highest scoring road team in all of baseball, they now have to adjust to not having the DH in the lineup again. Game 1 saw them held to only three hits in a 3-1 loss while Game 2 didn’t see the offense wake up until late. In fact, Game 2 was a 3-1 game (in favor of LA) going into the 8th. We’ve got a repeat of that starting pitching matchup for Game 6 and as long as the respective bullpens can do their job and we avoid extra innings, then I see the Under cashing here.
A total of seven home runs were hit (5 by Houston) in the 25-run Game 5 Sunday night, an offense display for the ages. Already this series has seen a record number of home runs hit (22) for a Fall Classic. But I’d like to go back to Game 2 for a moment, a contest which seemed like a sure Under until the Astros were able to tie the game (at 3-3) in the top of the ninth. Even going into extra innings, the game still had a chance to stay Under if the winning team would score just one run and the hold the opponent w/o one. Instead, what we got were more runs scored in the 10th and 11th innings combined (7) than the previous nine (6)! Tough break. The extra frames essentially negated what was another masterful performance from Astros starter Justin Verlander, not to mention the one from the Dodgers’ Rich Hill.
Since coming over from Detroit, Verlander has just been ridiculous for the Astros. They’ve won 10 straight times when he’s taken the mound. He has a 1.69 ERA and 0.771 WHIP his L7 starts. He’s actually gone 12 consecutive starts w/o allowing more than 3 ER and the only time he allowed more than 2 ER was Game 2, but the 3 ER allowed came w/ allowing only two hits. So I’m pretty confident that Verlander can again hold up his end of the bargain. As for Hill, we’re talking about a pitcher that has allowed 2 ER or fewer in eight consecutive outings (2.00 ERA, 0.972 WHIP L7 starts). He has a 2.77 ERA and 1.077 WHIP at home this season. In two of the games in this World Series, Houston has been held to three hits or less. The Dodgers had collected seven or fewer hits in each of the first four games of this series. Game 5 was the outlier here w/ the ridiculous offensive explosions on both sides. I expect a good ol’ fashioned pitcher’s duel here in Game 6. Again, visiting teams averaged only 3.3 rpg while batting a collective .226 this year at Dodgers Stadium. In the last seven games, Houston has held the Yankees and Dodgers lineups to a minuscule .198 batting average. 10* Under Astros/Dodgers
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