Panthers vs. Predators NHL Betting Odds & Pick: Nashville Needs Points in Central Division Race (Monday, April 26)
John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Juuse Saros.
- Two contenders in the Central Division face off on Monday night in Nashville.
- The Predators are looking to maintain their spot in the No. 4 spot, while the Panthers look like potential cup contenders.
- Pete Truszowski breaks down where he sees betting value in this clash.
Panthers vs. Predators Odds
|Time||Monday, 8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday and via FanDuel|
As we approach the final weeks of the NHL season, things are beginning to crystalize.
The Florida Panthers will make the playoffs and spend the next few days jockeying for seeding with the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. On the other hand, the Nashville Predators appear to be locked into a dog fight with the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Let’s dig into where the betting value lies on Monday night.
Any time you’re mentioned in the same tier as the Lightning and Hurricanes, you have to be happy. In the top-heavy Central, the Panthers are right there amongst some league giants. They have posted a 31-13-5 record and with seven games left on their schedule, finishing atop the division isn’t out of the question.
Under the hood, things check out for the Panthers. Florida ranks top 10 in expected goal rate, shot attempt share and high danger chance percentage. They have the fourth best mark in terms of expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5 while having the eighth-best mark in terms of expected goals scored. Expectation meets reality, as Florida ranks top 10 in both goals per hour at 5-on-5 and goals against.
Offensively, the team is led by two under-appreciated superstars in Alexander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Both are contributing well over a point per game. They’ve gotten supplemental scoring from some unheralded sources like Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, Frank Vatrano and Alex Wennberg. The team added some offensive depth in Nikita Gusev and Sam Bennett at the trade deadline.
Defensively, the team has done a good job overcoming the loss of Aaron Ekblad. It’s a group without a big name, but MacKenzie Weegar has really come into his own this season. Florida has gotten average goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger, but average is a big upgrade from what they’ve received in previous seasons.
Coming into the season, there was hope for a bounce-back season from the Predators after a disappointing mediocre 2020. Early on, Nashville struggled and many wrote it off. However, the team has played much better over the past few weeks and currently finds themselves holding the final playoff spot in the division. The Predators have a 26-21-2 record and their 54 points has them two ahead of the Stars, though Dallas has two games in hand.
Analytically, the Predators have been decidedly mediocre. They rank 16th in expected goal rate, 13th in shot attempt share and 15th in high-danger chance percentage. Neither side of the puck is particularly exemplary for Nashville, as they rank 11th in expected goals allowed at 5-on-5 and 18th in expected goals scored.
Since March 15, Nashville has a 15-5-1 record to get themselves back in the playoff picture. It’s no coincidence that during this time, Juuse Saros leads the league in goals saved above expectation (GSAx) with a mark of +13.25. Pekka Rinne hasn’t been as spectacular, but he’s posting a respectable +1.6 GSAx during the same time period.
Goaltending has had to be good for the Predators, as offense has not been easy to come by for this group. While they rank near the middle of the league in goals per hour, it hasn’t been pretty. Filip Forsberg is the team’s best forward, but he’s likely out for the season. Despite not playing for a month, he’s still tied for the team lead in points. Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene have not come close to meeting expectations.
Panthers vs. Predators Best Bet
Florida is the better team in this matchup, but the Predators are a hot, desperate squad playing on home ice. For that reason, I see this game as a true toss-up.
The Panthers have played middling hockey over the past few weeks, winning just five of their last 10 games. It’s fair to assume that they are playing out the string with their playoff spot all but locked up. Playing for a higher seed might be less of a motivation factor than ever this season with the lack of crowds.
Contrarily, Nashville needs every point it can get as its season is sure to come down to the final few days. The Predators have done a good job performing in these high-pressure games over the past few weeks and a lot of that credit has to go to their goaltending.
If we see both Saros and Bobrovsky between the pipes on Monday night, it’s a significant goaltending advantage for the Preds. Nobody has been better over the past few weeks than Saros while Bobrovsky is having another underwhelming season for the Cats.
At this price, I see a small edge on the Predators. They are the home team playing with more desperation and should have the advantage at the most important position on the ice. As home underdogs, I think they’re worthy of a bet.
Pick: Predators +108 (play to +100)