I don’t expect a whole lot out of this series between the President’s Trophy winning Florida Panthers against the Washington Capitals.
The Panthers won their first President’s Trophy in franchise history with the best regular season record in the NHL, going 58-18-6. They were an impressive 34-7 on home ice, which they’ll have for the entirety of the playoffs. Florida easily has the best offense in the NHL this season by a significant margin, averaging 4.11 goals per game. The only team in hockey that scored more than 4 goals per game (the Leafs were second in scoring, averaging 3.8 goals per game). The Panthers also had the most shots in the league, an insane 37.3 per game and they had a fourth best in the NHL 11% shooting percentage. They have the fifth best power play in the league, scoring on 24.4% of those chances. Florida was pretty good defensively this season as well, allowing an average of 2.95 goals per game, twelfth fewest in the NHL and they’ve allowed the tenth fewest shots, an average of 30.7 per game. Their two goaltenders, Sergei Bobvrovsky (2.67 GAA, .913 save percentage) and Spencer Knight (2.79 GAA, .908 save percentage) were both decent, but they didn’t really face a ton of pressure when their offense was scoring over four goals per game. The Panthers best defensive player Aaron Ekblad was out with injury for the last quarter of the season and they were still good without him. So adding their best, almost a point per game defenseman should make their back end even better along with having him quarterback their top power play unit. Florida had the sixth most penalty minutes in the NHL and killed off 79.5% of those penalties but scored the second most shorthanded goals this season, scoring twelve of them.
The Capitals were the second Wild Card seed in the playoffs out of the East with a 44-26-12 record. They were pretty inconsistent at points of the season and come into the playoffs on a four game losing streak but prior to that were on a decent run, going 7-1-1 in their nine games before. 36 year old Alex Ovechkin showed once again this season that age was just a number, leading the Caps with 90 points and 50 goal, still ripping clap bombs from the top of the Ovi office. The Caps offense was pretty good this season, scoring an average 3.29 goals per game, tenth most in the NHL. They averaged 31.4 shots per game, 14th most in the NHL. Surprisingly, Washington’s power play has sort of sucked this season, scoring on only 18.8% of their chances, tenth worst in the NHL. The Caps haven’t been bad defensively, allowing a twelfth fewest in the NHL average of 2.95 goals per game and they’ve allowed the sixth fewest shots in the NHL, an average of 29 per game. Their goaltending has given them some issues though with their two inexperienced goaltenders, Vitek Vanecek (2.67 GAA, .908 save percentage) who is confirmed in goal for Game 1 tonight and Ilya Samsonov (3.02 GAA, .896 save percentage). The Capitals were the fifth fewest penalized team this season but their penalty kill was pretty good, killing off 80.4% of their penalties, twelfth best in the NHL and they scored a ninth most, eight shorthanded goals this season.
This season the Panthers went 2-1 against the Caps, all in very entertaining and high scoring games. The home team won each game with Florida winning 5-4 in overtime on November 4th, the Capitals winning 4-3 on on November 26th and the Panthers winning 5-4 on November 30th.
The Panthers should pretty easily win this series. I don’t really give the Caps a chance to do more than steal a game or two. The price on the series for Florida at -335 is too expensive for me to bet on straight but I’ll take Florida to win the series in six games or less for 2.5 units.
Florida’s a fucking wagon and I could absolutely see them go on a run and win the Stanley Cup this season, but at +500, I don’t think there’s any value to betting on it. I’d rather just ride them out and bet them series by series and game by game. Hopefully they run through the Caps and then if we’re lucky we get to see a rematch of last year’s Battle of Florida against Tampa for the Atlantic Division.
In Game 1 tonight, I like the Panthers to win this game at home to start the playoffs on a solid note. I think the moneyline is overpriced though at -240. I’ll go with 1.5 units on the Panthers TT over 3.5, a unit on the over 6 and half a unit on the Panthers in regulation.
2.5u Panthers in six games or less (-152)
Game 1 Bets
1.5u Panthers TT over 3.5 (-182)
1u Panthers/Capitals over 6.5 (-150)
.5u Panthers in regulation (-148)
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