Thursday NHL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Panthers vs. Lightning Game 3 Betting Preview (May 20)

Thursday NHL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Panthers vs. Lightning Game 3 Betting Preview (May 20) article feature image

Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger.

  • Tampa Bay welcomes in-state rival Florida to Amalie Arena for Thursday's Game 3 showdown in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • The Lightning, who are the defending champions, look to secure a 3-0 series lead in this latest affair.
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the game below and explains why he's backing the Panthers in this spot.

Panthers vs. Lightning Odds

Panthers Odds+116
Lightning Odds-134
Over/Under6 (+102 / -124)
Time6:30 p.m ET
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings

The Florida Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Thursday’s NHL playoff action, desperately looking to avoid a 3-0 hole against the defending  Stanley Cup champions.

The first two games have been very tightly contested, with Tampa Bay managing to hang in both ultra-competitive affairs.

As many expected might happen, the Lightning have clearly found another level playing for keeps as they face very talented Panthers team.

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Florida Looking to Get Back in Series

The Panthers have seen their superb season quickly take a tough turn as they sit winless through the first two games. They're seeing first hand just how close the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs can be.

Florida will have a great opportunity to show some real heart, as it undoubtedly has its back against the wall needing a road win against the defending champion that appears to be rounding into form.

The Panthers have played relatively well in this series, and could very reasonably be sitting with a 1-1 split, but have just not found ways to win. The Panthers won the expected goals battle by a 3.21-2.52 margin in the second game, but ultimately could not complete the comeback in the 3-1 defeat.

Florida will see a boost to their top-six forward group with Sam Bennett returning after serving his one-game suspension.

My belief is that the Panthers will likely stay with their better goaltender in Chris Driedger for this crucial game, as he put in a solid effort in the Game 2 loss that makes him worthy of keeping the starting role.

Kucherov Continues to Shine for Defending Champions

Nikita Kucherov has picked up where he left off in last year's playoff bubble, collecting four points in the two games. The top trio of Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat continue to dominate, which is similar to what we saw during last year's postseason run.

Kucherov has been a notable addition the power play as well, with two goals and a delicious feed to Point in the opener on a late, game-tying goal. Steven Stamkos has also returned from injury, skating mainly on a unit with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli, which owns an xGF% of 69.2 in the series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has been his regular superb self, managing 1.70 goals saved above expected through two games. The Lightning certainly appear poised to make another deep run in this year's playoff, but it will not be easy to finish off a Panthers team that has played them tough so far.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

The Lightning opened around -150 odds, which is considerably higher than their closing line of -110 for the second game. Obviously, part of that uptick in price is due to the series shifting to Tampa Bay, but the perception of home-ice advantage is more dramatic than the numbers indicate in the postseason.

Excluding 2020's bubble results, home teams have run an 86-87 mark overall the last two seasons. When we factor that number in with the fact higher seeds play more home games, it is hard to say that home ice has actually been advantageous on average. 

Specifically, Tampa Bay does not appear to be among that group, as from 2017-2019 the franchise own a 6-6 record on home ice in the postseason, compared to a 5-4 record on the road.

Numbers from last year's bubble hold some relevancy based on the fact home teams would still receive the last change, although this perceived advantage didn't appear to help Tampa Bay, though, as it went 9-1 as the away team and 7-4 playing as the home team.

This series was expected by many to be a long, drawn out affair, with Florida offering a legitimate shot at upsetting the defending champ.

With how closely the first two games were played, I certainly don’t feel that narrative should entirely change and backing Florida as a considerable underdog at +122 holds value. That is especially true when we consider the idea the number is larger due to the perceived home-ice advantage.

Pick: Florida ML (+122)

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