The Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers have both been waiting almost a week for this series to start as they both advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in five games, with the Panthers defeating the Leafs and the Canes defeating the Devils. The series will kick off on Thursday night in Carolina for Game 1.
In the regular season series between these teams, the Hurricanes went 2-1 with all three games all playing out quite differently. The Panthers won the first game 3-0 in a shutout at home on November 9th, the Canes answered back with a 4-0 shutout of their own on December 30th at home, and then won 6-4 on the road on April 13th, in a close game that saw eight total goals in the third period.
The Carolina Hurricanes had a fantastic regular season, winning the Metropolitan Division on the last day of the regular season finishing a point ahead of the Devils with a 52-21-9 record. Despite ending the regular season with two wins in a row to win the division, they were on a slight slump finishing the season, with five wins in their last eleven games.
The Hurricanes have been good on both ends of the ice. They’ve scored an average of 3.2 goals per game, the 15th-most in the NHL on an average of 34.8 shots per game. They’ve generated the fifth-most expected goals (3.58 per game) and the third-most high-danger shots in the league. Carolina has scored on 19.8% of their power play chances. They are led in scoring by Martin Necas (71 points, 43 assists) and Sebastian Aho (36 goals). The Canes will be without three of their best players though, who are out for the rest of this season with injuries in Andrei Svechnikov, Max Pacioretty, and Teuvo Tarvainen.
Carolina has allowed just the second-fewest goals in the NHL, an average of only 2.55 goals per game on an average of 26 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the fewest expected goals (2.56 per game) and the fewest high-danger shots. The Canes have the second-best penalty kill in the NHL, killing off 84.4% of their penalties.
Freddy Andersen’s been good this season in goal with a 21-11–1 record, a 2.48 GAA, a .903 save percentage, and a shutout. Andersen started in Game 6 of their first-round series against the Isles after Anti Raanta started the first five games. Raanta had a 19-3-3 record with a 2.23 GAA, a .910 save percentage, and four shutouts.
In their first-round series against the Islanders, Carolina won Game 1 at home 2-1 inside regulation and then won Game 2 4-3 in overtime. In Game 2, the Canes outshot the Isles 36-26 but were outplayed by an expected goal rate of 2.71-2.29 with the game-winner coming off a controversial no-call for high sticking. After the Canes won Games 1 and 2 at home, the Islanders poured it on in the last four minutes of Game 3 for the first playoff game at UBS Arena, with four goals in those closing minutes to win 5-1 in a game that was much closer than the score showed. The Islanders outshot Carolina 37-31 and dominated the Hurricanes by an expected goal rate of 5.16-2.37. The Canes answered back in Game 4 on Long Island with a huge 5-2 win on the road to take a 3-1 series lead. They dominated the Islanders by an expected goal rate of 3.67-2.19. The Islanders held off elimination with a 3-2 win on the road in Carolina in Game 5. The Canes outshot the Isles 36-22 and outplayed them by an expected goal rate of 3.95-2, but couldn’t tie up the game with another great performance in goal from Ilya Sorokin. On Long Island in Game 6, the Hurricanes ended the series with a 2-1 overtime win on the road with Paul Stastny’s game-winner six minutes in OT. They outshot the Isles 41-34 and outplayed New York by an expected goal rate of 3.96-2.78.
The Carolina Hurricanes became the first team to advance to the Conference Finals this season with their dominant series win over the Devils in the second round in five games. And they did it without Svechnikov, Pacioretty, and Teravainen in the lineup, which makes it even more impressive. In their second-round series against the Devils, the Hurricanes dominated Game 1 at home, getting a 5-1 win in a game that New Jersey never stood a chance in. Carolina outshot the Devils 23-18 and outplayed Jersey by an expected goal rate of 3.97-2.11. Game 2 wasn’t any better for the Devils, as they lost 6-1 to go down 2-0 in the series. They did play significantly better than in Game 1 but still got outshot 35-29 and outplayed by an expected goal rate of 4.02-2.16. The Devils made it a series with a dominant 8-4 win in Game 3 as the series shifted to New Jersey with a four-point game for Jack Hughes (2 goals, 2 assists). They outshot the Canes 34-30 and dominated by an expected goal rate of 4.16-2.66. In Game 4, Carolina bounced right back on the road, winning 6-1 with a huge five-goal second period to take a 3-1 series lead and put themselves a game away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. They outshot the Devils 29-22 and outplayed them by an expected goal rate of 2.64-1.52. The best game of the series was Game 5, which needed overtime but the Hurricanes got the 3-2 win to eliminate Jersey and advance. Carolina outshot the Devils 39-29 but just slightly were outplayed by an expected goal rate of 3.62-3.52.
The Hurricanes have been very good statistically on both ends of the ice through the first two rounds of the playoffs. They’ve scored the fourth-most goals in the playoffs, averaging 3.64 goals per game on an average of 33.3 shots per game. Their power play has scored an average of 18.9% of their chances. Defensively Carolina has been the best remaining team in the playoffs. They’ve allowed just an average of 2.55 goals per game, the second-fewest of any teams that made the playoffs, on an average of 27.8 shots allowed per game. Their penalty kill has been elite, killing off 90% of their penalties, the best of any of the 16 teams that made the playoffs.
After a slow start to the year after winning the President’s Trophy last year and getting bounced from the playoffs in the second round in the Battle of Florida against their rival Lightning, the Florida Panthers really rallied in the second half of the season. They finished the regular season in the second and final Wild Card spot in the East, with a 42-32-8 record, a point ahead of the Penguins and the Sabres. Despite closing out the regular season with two losses, they closed the regular season hot with a 6-1-1 record in their last eight games.
Florida has been very good offensively this season. They’re averaging 3.51 goals per game, the sixth-most in the NHL, on an average of 36.8 shots per game. They’ve generated the most expected goals (3.8 per game) and the most high-danger shots in the league. The Panthers’ power play has scored on 22.8% of their chances, the tenth-best in the NHL. Matthew Tkachuk (109 points, 69 assists), who was acquired in the offseason from the Calgary Flames and became an excellent addition to the Cats, and Carter Verhaeghe (42 goals) led Florida in scoring this season.
The Panthers have struggled on the back end, allowing an average of 3.68 goals per game this season, the twelfth-most in the NHL, on an average of 31.7 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the eighth-most expected goals (3.42 per game) and the third-most high-danger shots. Their penalty kill has struggled at just 75.9%, the tenth-worst in the NHL. Alex Lyon, the third-string goalie to start the season for Florida became their #1 to start their series against the Bruins with Sergei Bobrovsky having his struggles this year in goal (24-20-3 record, 3.07 GAA, .901 save percentage) and Spencer Knight away from the team for a bulk of the season with personal issues. Lyon caught some lightning in a bottle late in the year, starting the last eight games for Florida this season and going 6-1-1 in those games in their playoff push. He ended the regular season with a 9-4-2 record, a 2.89 GAA, a .914 save percentage, and a shutout on the year. Bobrovsky took over in that series though and dominated games down the stretch of the series to keep the Panthers alive and help them advance through the Bruins to the second round.
The Panthers pulled off the biggest upset in NHL history in the first round, knocking off the greatest regular season team in NHL history in seven games, defeating the President’s Trophy-winning Boston Bruins. It was an insane win. The Bruins broke the record for the best regular season in history with the most points and most wins in league history. They dominated the regular season and even had a 3-1 series lead with several opportunities to end it, but the Panthers came back (with a little luck on their side) to knock off Boston in overtime of Game 7. After splitting the first two games in Boston to open the series where the Bruins played pretty lousy hockey at home, the Bs won the next two games in Florida pretty easily, putting the Panthers on the brink of elimination. In Game 5 at home in Boston, the Bruins were by far the dominant team, outshooting Florida 47-25 and outplaying them by an expected goal rate of 4.52-3.86, but the Panthers still got extended the series with a fantastic performance in goal from Sergei Bobrovsky in a 4-3 overtime win for the Panthers on Matthew Tkachuk’s game-winner. After the first two games of this series, the Bruins were the far better team in the series, dominating Games 3, 4, and 5, despite losing Game 5 which they likely should have finished this series in as they put 47 shots on the Panthers. Game 6 in Florida was highly entertaining, with the Panthers winning 7-5 at home in a game that saw seven third-period goals. Boston outshot the Panthers 34-33 and led twice in the third period, but couldn’t get it done and Florida outplayed the Bruins by an expected goal rate of 4.85-4.02. In Game 7, the Panthers ended the series in overtime, with Brandon Montour scoring the game-tying goal with just a minute left in regulation to force overtime and then Carter Verhaeghe scoring the game-winner 8:35 into overtime. Boston outshot Florida 36-31 and outplayed them by an expected goal rate of 2.98-2.59.
Against the Leafs in round two, another series that Florida was a big underdog in, in Game 1 of the series, the Panthers surprised a lot of people, continuing the momentum of beating the Bruins, as they picked up a huge 4-2 win on the road. The Leafs outshot Florida 36-28 and outplayed them by an expected goal rate of 5.8-2.8, but with a huge performance in goal from Sergei Bobrovsky, they couldn’t get the win. Toronto didn’t adjust in Game 2, still trying to be too fancy, and lost 3-2 in Game 2 at home to get into a 2-0 hole going back to Florida. In Game 2, they scored twice in the first 5:10 of the game, blew that lead to go down 3-2 in the game just 1:06 into the second period and after not seeing any more goals from either team for the remainder of the game, it’s looking like Toronto’s going to need a miracle to find a way to win this series. They outshot the Panthers 37-29 and outplayed Florida by an expected goal rate of 4.12-2.89, yet still couldn’t win again. They were bad on the defensive blue line and just tried too much rather than simplifying their offensive play. In Game 3 as the series shifted to Florida, the Panthers put the Leafs on the brink of elimination with a 3-2 win on Sam Reinhart’s game-winner 3:02 into overtime. They outshot Toronto 29-24 and outplayed the Leafs by an expected goal rate of 3.57-2.33. The core four for Toronto, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and John Tavares had not scored even one goal in this series. In Game 4, they turned that around though, and avoided the sweep, picking up a 2-1 win in a tight game in Florida on the road. Off a lucky bounce off the official, Nylander scored his first goal of the series in the second period and Marner scored the eventual game-winner with less than ten minutes left in the game, on the way to a 2-1 win for Toronto. Although both teams had 25 shots on goal, the Panthers outplayed the Leafs by an expected goal rate of 3.02-2.66 in the losing effort. After being unable to complete the sweep at home in a close game, the Panthers ended the series with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 5 in Toronto. The Maple Leafs were the better team in that game, outshooting Florida 52-43 and outplaying them by an expected goal rate of 4.67-3.2, but with yet another great night from Bobrovsky in goal, the Panthers got the series win on the road.
Florida’s been decent on both ends of the ice these playoffs but statistically haven’t been all that fantastic. They’ve scored an average of 3.33 goals per game, the eighth-most of the 16 teams that made the playoffs (the fewest of the four teams in the conference finals) on an average of 31.7 shots per game. Their power play has scored on 27.6% of their opportunities. Defensively the Panthers have allowed an average of 3.08 goals per game, the seventh-fewest of the teams that made the playoffs (but the most of the four remaining teams) on an average 35.3 shots allowed per game with incredible performances from Sergei Bobrovsky bailing them out. They’ve struggled on the penalty kill at just 65.8%, the fourth-worst of teams that made the playoffs.
Although I doubted Carolina in the second round, gotta give them a ton of credit now that they’ve advanced through two rounds, relatively easily, all without their top three players. I think they’re the superior team in this series and although I was wrong picking against Florida against the Bruins and the Leafs, I’m doing it again here. Especially with Teravainen possibly returned as he’s no longer in a no contact jersey in practice, I expect the Hurricanes to win this series and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. I already have a future on the Canes to win the cup from early in the season with awesome value at +1300 for 1.5 units. That’s fantastic going into the Eastern Conference Finals (with futures on both teams in the West as well) and I hedged that a bit with half a unit on Sergei Bobrovsky to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Bobrovsky’s been fantastic these playoffs and without his incredible play between the pipes, there’s not a chance the Panthers would be at this point. I think the only way Florida wins the Cup is behind his great goaltending, so, solid value on that hedge.
Expecting Carolina to win this series, I will take them to do so for 2 units at a cheaper -130 price than I had expected. I also think they start the series tomorrow winning Game 1 at home, where they’ve been fantastic and will take them for a unit.
1.5u Carolina Hurricanes – Stanley Cup Champions (+1300)
.5u Sergei Bobrovsky – Conn Smythe Trophy Winner (+4000)
2u Hurricanes – Eastern Conference Champions (-130)
Game 1 Bets
1u Hurricanes ML (-141)
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