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Capitals vs. Panthers Odds & Picks: Value On Favorite In Game 1

Capitals vs. Panthers Odds & Picks: Value On Favorite In Game 1 article feature image

Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

  • The Panthers begin their opening-round series vs. the Capitals in South Florida.
  • Florida has had an elite offense all season long, its defense is highly underestimated and it owns advantages in every facet of the game against Washington.
  • Grant White breaks down Game 1 and offers up his pick.

Capitals vs. Panthers Game 1 Odds

Capitals Odds +195
Panthers Odds -250
Series Moneyline WSH +275 / FLA -350
Over/Under 6.5 (-135 / +110)
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Washington Capitals did this to themselves. Alex Ovechkin & Co. had several chances towards the end of the season to move past the Pittsburgh Penguins for third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Instead, the Caps dropped four straight games and five of their last six, dooming them to the second wild-card spot and an opening-round matchup with the Florida Panthers.

This season, no one could keep pace with the Panthers, and the Capitals’ goaltending woes could sink them in this Eastern Conference series.

Stat Washington Capitals Florida Panthers
Goals For per 60 minutes (5-on-5) 2.7 3.3
Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5) 2.4 2.5
Expected Goals per 60 (5-on-5) 2.4 3.2
Expected Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5) 2.4 2.5
High-Danger Scoring Chances per 60 (5-on-5) 10.5 14.3
High-Danger Scoring Chances Allowed per 60 (5-on-5) 10.7 11.7
Power Play % 18.7% 24.1%
Penalty Kill % 80.3% 79.8%
Save Percentage (projected starting goalie) .907 .907
Goals Saved Above Expectation (projected starting goalie) -2.85 -1.73

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 and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck, and Natural Stat Trick.

Capitals Not in Fine Form

A superficial glance at Ilya Samsonov’s record reveals a competent primary goaltender. The Russian netminder went 23-12-5 in 44 appearances (39 starts) for a .638 points percentage.

However, everything beyond his record is cause for concern. Samsonov finished with his worst goals-against average and save percentage of his career (3.02 and 89.6%, respectively).

His advanced analytics paint an even less reliable picture, with Samsonov posting -12.5 goals saved above average, the seventh-worst rating in the league among 70 qualified goalies.

Moreover, Samsonov stopped just 79.6% of high-danger chances and 90.1% of shots at five-on-five.

Goaltending concerns aren’t the only factor impacting the Capitals’ competitiveness in Game 1 — and the series in general.

Washington finished below the Panthers in nearly every advanced category, including Corsi, expected goals-for and high-danger chance ratings.

Of the 16 playoff teams, only three finished with a worse high-danger chance ratio than the Capitals. Washington ended the season with a 49.5% rating, meaning it gave up more quality opportunities than it created.

The Caps’ season-long struggles are plainly illustrated over their recent sample. Washington out-chanced its opponents in high-danger opportunities in just four of its last 12 games. That shifted the expected goals-for ratings away from them, with the Capitals getting outplayed in six of those contests.

In context, it’s easier to understand why the Caps dropped five of their past six.

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Panthers Maintain Unstoppable Offense

Florida ended the NHL campaign as the Presidents’ Trophy winners for the best record during the regular season. Whether they duplicate that success through four rounds of the playoffs remains to be seen, but their advantage through the first round is undeniable.

The Panthers have measurable advantages in every facet of the game.

From start to finish, the Panthers’ offense was on another level this season. Florida recorded more goals than any other team, scoring the most since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.

What makes the Panthers more dangerous than every other team is they have the metrics to back up sustained output.

Florida led the league in shots, scoring and high-danger chances at five-on-five, with a more modest eighth-ranked shooting percentage. Although that seems less impressive, it positions the Panthers for much more sustainable success.

Florida’s 12th-ranked PDO of 1.005 is only marginally above average, and is a good indicator that the Panthers can maintain their current pace.

As good as the Panthers have been offensively, they don’t get enough credit for their defensive structure. The Presidents’ Trophy winners allowed the eighth-fewest shots and ninth-fewest scoring chances at five-on-five, resulting in the 14th-best expected goals-for rating.

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Capitals vs. Panthers Pick

Even if teams find a way to neutralize the Panthers’ offense, few opponents possess the skill to break through their defensive zone coverage. The Capitals fail both parameters, as they will be unable to limit Florida’s scoring, or create the additional opportunities needed to keep pace.

Game 1 is analogous to the series as a whole, as the Panthers’ advantage is more substantive than the betting market implies. Florida will play its own game, keeping Washington out of its element.

Pick: Panthers -227

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