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Wednesday NHL Odds & Pick for Dallas Stars vs. Florida Panthers: Is Now the Time To Sell High on the Cats? (Feb. 24)

Wednesday NHL Odds & Pick for Dallas Stars vs. Florida Panthers: Is Now the Time To Sell High on the Cats? (Feb. 24) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Ryan Lomberg

  • The Florida Panthers host a Dallas Stars team on Wednesday that has already been through a lot in 2021.
  • The Panthers lead the NHL with a .765 points percentage. Are the Cats for real or should bettors look to sell high on Florida?
  • Michael Leboff previews this matchup and shares his betting pick below.

Dallas Stars vs. Florida Panthers Odds

Stars Odds +110
Panthers Odds -127
Over/Under 5.5
Time Wednesday, 5 p.m. ET
Odds as of Tuesday and via DraftKings.

One of the funny things about betting is that while the rest of the sports world gets to be enamored with and root for pleasant surprises, you become numb to the hype, and instead look to poke holes in what to most people is a nice story. It’s a bitter existence, but this is how life works in these betting streets.

That brings us to the Florida Panthers, owners of the best record in the NHL at 12-3-2. The Cats don’t have the most points in the league, but their .765 points percentage ranks ahead of teams like Toronto, Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina.

So are the Florida Panthers for real? Or should bettors keep their ear to the ground for opportunities to sell high on the Cats?

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Florida Is For Real

Everything about Florida checks out through its first 17 games. The Panthers rank ninth overall with a +0.37 goal differential per 60 minutes and their +0.24 expected goal differential per 60 minutes is also a top-10 mark. While the Cats are just middle of the road in terms of creating scoring chances, they have enough talent to make those chances count.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are both over a point-per-game to start the season, Patric Hornqvist is not far behind and middle-six forwards like Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair are chipping in consistently, too. Overall, the Panthers are scoring 3.41 goals per game, good enough for fifth in the NHL.

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.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

The Panthers have also made significant strides on defense. Florida is the best team in the NHL at suppressing high-danger scoring chances and the Panthers are allowing just 2.01 xG against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.

The biggest question mark for this team coming into the season was in goal. More specifically, it was whether or not Sergei Bobrovsky could bounce back from a calamitous 2019-20 campaign that saw him post a -13.46 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in his first season of a seven-year, $10 million contract.

Bobrovsky has not been up to snuff again this season, but unheralded Chris Driedger has been the team’s savior in goal. Driedger has posted a .929 save percentage and +2.46 GSAx in nine appearances in 2021, while Bobrovsky has struggled to an .889 SV% and a -8.81 GSAx in eight games.

So long as Driedger can provide reliable goaltending, I see no reason to doubt Florida’s legitimacy this season.

The Stars Defense Still Shines

The Dallas Stars have had a lot to deal with in 2021. Their season was delayed for over a week due to COVID and a month later the Stars had to postpone a handful of games due to the snowstorms in Texas. Furthermore, the Stars have had to manage a bunch of injuries to key players. Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop have yet to play this season, while Alex Radulov and Jamie Benn have also missed a handful of games. Despite the adversity, Dallas has scratched its way to a 5-4-4 start and their underlying metrics are pretty strong.

The Stars have established themselves as one of the NHL’s best defensive teams and that has not changed for 2021. In fact, Dallas leads the NHL with a 1.82 xGA/60 and is third in the league with a 1.79 GA/60 (both stats at 5-on-5).

The defense will always be the story for the Stars, but they could definitely stand to generate some more offense. Dallas is 24th in the NHL in expected goals for and 22nd in goals for at 5-on-5 and has relied heavily on the league’s third-best power play to be the difference.

Panthers vs. Stars Best Bet

The Panthers put together a comprehensive 3-1 victory over the Stars on Monday night. In that game the Cats outshot the Stars, 52-25 (including a 29-4 advantage in the second period), and won the expected goals battle, 4.23 to 1.32. It was a dominant performance and another sign that this team should be taken seriously. Florida closed as a -125 favorite for that game and that’s basically the range we find them in for Wednesday’s rematch.

I don’t think that the Panthers are going anywhere, but when you look at the underlying metrics, you’ll see that these two teams are pretty close. Dallas has the better expected goals rate at 53.4%, but Florida is right behind at 52.9%. It’s a similar situation when you look at goal share as the Stars have scored 54.02% of the 5-on-5 goals in their games, while the Panthers have accounted for 53.96% of the goals in their contests.

With these teams being near-equals at 5-on-5, I’ll be looking towards Dallas in what could be a buy-low, sell-high spot after Monday’s loss. I’m going to be patient and see if this number bumps up a bit — and it could after Monday’s result — but I think there’s a smidge of value on Dallas at +110 as long as Anton Khudobin is confirmed as the starter.

Pick: Dallas Stars +110 or better

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