Predators vs. Panthers Odds & Picks: Wait for Goaltending Matchup Before Backing Nashville
Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Juuse Saros.
- The Florida Panthers host the Nashville Predators during Thursday's eight-game NHL slate.
- Despite the Panthers' undefeated record in regulation and the Predators' losing record, oddsmakers have this game as a toss-up.
- Pete Truszkowski previews the matchup and shares his betting pick below.
Predators vs. Panthers Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings.|
The Nashville Predators have had an inconsistent start to their 2021 season, winning just four of their first nine games. On the other side, Florida has gotten points in the first six games of their season, winning five of them.
Even with the disparity in records, the oddsmakers see these teams as basically even, with the Panthers being a small home favorite on Thursday night.
Despite its disappointing 4-5-0 start, Nashville has not played poorly. The Predators are coming off two straight losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the poor results, Nashville was the better team and had nearly 53% of the expected goals over the two games.
This has been a common refrain for the Predators team this season, as they are above league average in expected goals, shot-attempt rate, scoring chances and high danger chances. At 5-on-5, Nashville is performing well, scoring nearly 52% of the goals.
The issue comes for Nashville on special teams. The Predators have the worst penalty kill in the league, killing under 65% of their opponents’ opportunities on the man-advantage. In addition to the poor penalty-killing, the Predators have a bottom-five power play.
Struggles killing penalties often comes down to goaltending. Juuse Saros has been unspectacular to begin this season as he has posted a -2.06 goals saved above expectation (GSAx). His backup, Pekka Rinne, has been even worse. He has posted a -4.29 GSAx in just four games. It’s hard to kill penalties when you can’t rely on your goaltending.
On the other side, power play struggles usually come down to poor play from your top players. Nashville’s top two centers, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen, both have goose eggs in the goal column. They have a measly three assists each in their first nine games. Filip Forsberg opened the season with a three-game goal-scoring streak, but he’s scored just once in the last six games.
If the Predators can get better goaltending and their top players get going, they are playing well enough to get better results. Without those two factors, it’s hard to win games.
Florida has not lost a game in regulation yet to begin this season, but it’s important to add context. In a league where many teams have already hit double digits in games played, the Panthers have played just six times.
In addition, the Panthers have played two games each against bottom-dwellers Detroit and Chicago. They’ve also played two games against the offensively challenged Blue Jackets. This resume pales in comparison to their opponent. Nashville has already played games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars.
That being said, you can only play who is on your schedule. The Panthers have taken advantage of the light schedule and are doing what you’d expect them to do by winning games. In addition, Florida is a top-10 team in expected goals, shot-attempt rate and high danger chances to begin this season.
Florida has a trio of new acquisitions who are contributing offensively. Patric Hornqvist has five goals and seven points while Anthony Duclair has six assists through the team’s first six games. Carter Verhaege has also surprised everyone, scoring five goals early.
These three help bolster the lineup behind Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, who are both producing at over a point-per-game clip to begin the year.
While it’s unlikely we see a goaltending controversy in Florida due to Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract, it’s interesting to see him split the starts with Chris Driedger to begin the season. Driedger has much better numbers to begin the season than Bobrovsky, so this is a situation worth keeping an eye on.
Predators vs. Panthers Best Bet
I think it’s very telling how tight this line is considering the disparity in records between these two teams. You would think a home team who hasn’t lost in regulation would be larger favorites against a team with a losing record.
I truly do see this game as a toss-up. Florida’s record and analytics are most likely inflated due to the strength of its schedule. Nashville has performed well against some of the top teams in the league.
One thing to keep an eye on in this matchup is the goaltending. Pekka Rinne has been the face of the Nashville franchise for years, but it seems like his days as a good NHL goalie are over. If Rinne gets the start, I have no interest in the Predators.
On the flip-side, it might sound crazy to say, but I’d prefer Nashville in this spot if Bobrovsky gets the start. He has struggled since joining the Panthers last season.
If both starters (Bobrovsky and Saros) get the nod, I think there’s value in getting Nashville at plus-money. It’s a pass if Rinne gets the start for the Preds.
Pick: Nashville +100 (+100 or better, only if Saros starts)