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Predators vs. Panthers Odds & Pick: Goaltending Should Be The Difference For Florida in Rematch (Friday, Feb. 5)

Predators vs. Panthers Odds & Pick: Goaltending Should Be The Difference For Florida in Rematch (Friday, Feb. 5) article feature image

Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: The Florida Panthers celebrate.

  • The Florida Panthers host the Nashville Predators on Friday night in the second game of a back-to-back between the teams.
  • The Predators took the opener on Thursday night, a 6-5 decision in overtime.
  • Read Matt Russell's preview behind, including betting odds and a pick.

Predators vs. Panthers Odds

Predators Odds -103
Panthers Odds -113
Over/Under 6
Time 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday night and via DraftKings.

When the NHL resumed play in the bubble last summer, there was a strange trend that occurred for many of the league’s teams. Many franchises were starting goaltenders that weren’t even the best netminder on the team. Many teams had committed either big dollars or emotional capital to their incumbent, only to have the metrics shows that they’d be better off looking to the lesser-known, backup goalie.

The Nashville Predators were one of those teams, and they made the somewhat controversial decision to leave long-time star goaltender Pekka Rinne on the bench in favor of Jusse Saros. It didn’t pay off then, as they lost their qualifying series to Arizona in 4 games, and the jury’s still out on Saros’ viability as a top-flight goaltender.

Meanwhile in Florida, the Panthers signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a big-money deal two summers ago, and it’s been just short of a disaster so far. “Goalie Bob” had a -14.91 GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average) in his first season in Sunrise, and the Panthers went out weakly in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The early returns this season has me wondering if they’re going to fall into the capital conundrum.

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Nashville Predators

The Predators’ season so far has mirrored the current state of the franchise: nondescript. The Predators play tightly contested games, and often rely on outworking their opponent in a close, low-scoring game. They rely on good goaltending to make this work. When they don’t get it, like they didn’t in Tampa Bay, it’s going to result in a two-game sweep, even though they had a better cumulative XGF (Expected Goals For) than the Lighting at 2.99 to 2.22.

As they moved on to Sunrise for the first of two with the Panthers, the hope was that Saros would warm up against a team that had converted only 11.4% of their High-Danger Chances (HDC), and had struggled to create them.

No such luck. The Panthers piled up five goals on 24 shots against Saros in the first two periods and chased the Predators’ netminder. This is only adding fuel to the fire that the younger of the Predators’ Finnish goaltending duo is not ready for prime time.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers’ offensive explosion seemed to take the pressure off Bobrovsky, who continued his habit of giving up early goals. The man with the richest contract in the Florida locker room gave up a pair of first-period goals for the third straight game. 

That wasn’t the pair of goals that were the problem. Justin Huberdeau’s hat-trick appeared to be enough to give Florida a 5-3 win, but when the Predators scored twice in 69 seconds to tie the game at 5, a shell-shocked Panthers team found themselves in overtime. They would be even more surprised when Bobrovsky gave up a sixth goal, on a breakaway during the 3-on-3 period to give the Predators the 6-5 win. 

Predators vs. Panthers Best Bet

I was hoping the Predators would take the first meeting so that we might get a discount in this game to back the Panthers, especially with the potential for a revenge angle. Florida will likely be turning to backup goaltender Chris Driedger on the backend of the back-to-back, and his +3.09 GSAA is the best of the four goaltenders potentially involved in this game. The pressure is on Driedger to stabilize the Panthers after the catastrophic conclusion on Thursday night, but like starting pitchers in baseball, momentum is only as good as the next night’s starting netminder.

My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model from THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast has these teams rated as close to evenly as possible, so a 6-5 OT game fits right in. However, with the Predators running low on answers between the pipes, it doesn’t matter whether Rinne is back in the net after handling the duties in the third period and overtime, or whether Saros gets a second chance. I’ll take my chances with a Panthers goalie I have more faith in to be the difference-maker. 

Pick: Panthers (-120 or better)

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