NHL Odds & Picks For Hurricanes vs. Panthers: Bet On Carolina to Stay Atop Central Division
Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Gustav Forsling (left) and Jordan Martinook (right).
- Carolina and Florida are neck and neck in a race to win the Central Division.
- The Hurricanes picked up a pair of wins over the Panthers earlier this month by a combined score of 8-2.
- NHL betting analyst Nicholas Martin thinks that trend will carry through for Thursday night's matchup.
Hurricanes vs. Panthers Odds
|Time||Thursday, 7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday and via DraftKings|
The Carolina Hurricanes will travel to Sunrise Florida to take on the Panthers for a massive two-game set which will go a long way in determining who claims the first-seed from the Central Division. These clubs have been two of the league's most consistent this season and have continued that form of late with Florida owning a 6-3-1 record over their last 10, and Carolina at 6-2-2.
Although Dallas and Nashville are playing well in a fight for the four seed, winning the division and avoiding a very tough 2 v.s 3 matchup, quite possibly with the defending champion Lightning certainly holds a ton of weight.
The Panthers enter on a three-game winning streak, finding success while dealing with very meaningful injuries to Carter Verhaeghe, and Mackenzie Weegar, on top of Aaron Ekblad who is out for the season with a gruesome leg injury sustained in early March. Newly-acquired forward Sam Bennett has stepped in the second line centre role for the time being and has immediately rewarded GM Bill Zito with five points over his three games with the club.
Highly-touted goaltending prospect Spencer Knight made a very solid debut Tuesday night, stopping 33 shots on route to a 5-1 win over the scuffling Blue Jackets. It will be interesting to see how many starts he is able to manage for a Panthers team with an already crowded cage between Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger.
The Panthers have controlled play to an xGF% of 56.01 over their last 10, and unsurprisingly with the kind of scorers this group possesses up front have turned that control of play into some great results.
This is a very talented Panthers roster, without a lot of knocks. Mackenzie Weegar is possibly the most underrated defensemen in the NHL right now, and it will be interesting to see if he returns. I believe that although this defensive core has managed well the last two vs. lowly Columbus, without Weegar and already missing Ekblad, it could possibly be exposed moreso against a Carolina club that will control a great deal more of the possession and play.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
Carolina enters this one off a huge 4-1 statement win over Tampa Bay in which they greatly controlled much of the play. The Lightning went with Andrei Vasilevskiy on back-to-back days for the first time all year for the crucial clash, but Carolina created a ton of chances and managed to get three past the likely Vezina winner.
The Hurricanes have been outright dominant their last four times out, going 3-0-1 to cool off red hot Nashville and claim three out of four points in Tampa Bay to greatly boost their chances at claiming the division title and avoiding Tampa or Florida in round one. Certainly fitting the eye test over the spell, Carolina has skated to an xGF% of 61.15 over the four games and allowed just five goals against.
Carolina has three strong defensive pairings, including three superb defensemen in Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton. There is a ton of depth up-front, including an elite top-six group led by an excellent first line centre in Sebastian Aho. Andrei Svechnikov has the talent to be amongst the league's top scorers, and he's a guy I think can show more than he has so far this year down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Betting Analysis & Pick
This Canes club has continued to get better every year under coach Rod Brind'Amour, and with the immense depth on this roster at every position I like their chances to keep trending in the right direction and hold onto their lead atop the division for a big first-round advantage.
Florida are certainly a realistic contender with some of the league's top talent up front and a good supporting cast in behind, but I think that this Canes defensive core is significantly stronger than what the Panthers are rolling out, specifically more so now with Aaron Ekblad out for the year and the immensely underrated Mackenzie Weegar likely to sit again.
Carolina took two games from the Panthers in early April, with a combined score of 8-2. While I love to point out that previous results such as these often mean very little in hockey, the fact that it was so recent and the results were so dominant leads me to believe they hold some relevance.
The matchup currently sits as a pick-em on DraftKings, and I believe backing Carolina at -110 to take this crucial clash holds some strong value given their recent form and a roster that by all means is capable of continuing such results.
Pick: Carolina Moneyline (-110)