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NHL Odds & Picks for Blackhawks vs. Panthers: Expect Some Fireworks in Florida (Sunday, Jan. 17)

NHL Odds & Picks for Blackhawks vs. Panthers: Expect Some Fireworks in Florida (Sunday, Jan. 17) article feature image

Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Kane.

  • Florida sports fans might be focused on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on Sunday night, but the Panthers are also in action in their season opener.
  • The Panthers host the Chicago Blackhawks, who have already played twice this season and suffered two losses to the Lightning.
  • Pete Truszkowski breaks down where the betting value lies in this matchup below.

Blackhawks vs. Panthers Odds

Blackhawks Odds +125 [BET NOW]
Panthers Odds -145 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 6.5 (-120/+100) [BET NOW]
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV NHL Center Ice
Odds as of Saturday night and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

Sports fans in the state of Florida might be focused on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, but there’s more important things to focus on as the Florida Panthers finally begin their 2021 NHL regular season. 

The Panthers will host the Chicago Blackhawks, who had the unfair role of serving as a punching bag for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first two games of the season. 

Both teams were invited to last season’s NHL Bubble, but neither team made much of a run. Florida has been a team many have been expecting to take the next step for a few seasons now.

Will this game mark the beginning of the Panthers finally taking that leap?

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Chicago Blackhawks

As mentioned, the Blackhawks come into this game sporting a record of 0-2-0 after two losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blackhawks were outscored by a combined score of 10-3 across the two games. 

The biggest question mark for the Blackhawks this season will come in between the pipes. Robin Lehner was traded to Vegas late last season and then Corey Crawford left the organization before ultimately retiring. Chicago now turns their crease over to a pair of unknowns in Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia.

The two goalies both have gotten one start thus far this season, and neither went particularly well, as both were beaten five times. Granted, facing the Lightning is not a fun way to get settled into the hockey season. With that being said, Subban had a goals saved above expectation of -1.85 in his start, while Delia was not much better at -1.77. 

Chicago’s goaltending will be under extra scrutiny because of the state of their team defense. No team gave up more expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 last season than the Blackhawks with 2.63. Duncan Keith has long been the anchor on the blueline for the Blackhawks, but Keith is now 37 years old with a lot of long playoff runs on his tires.

Patrick Kane continues to be one of the top players in the league, but Batman will be missing his Robin for the foreseeable future. Jonathan Toews is out indefinitely due to an unknown medical issue and the Blackhawks will miss his offensive contributions and leadership dearly. 

The Blackhawks have some solid young offensive players like Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, but the supporting cast obviously falls well short of the depth of the Stanley Cup winning teams from a few years ago. 

Florida Panthers

As mentioned earlier, Florida has long been a team that people have been waiting to take the next step. It’s been a team littered with scoring talent that plays an exciting brand of hockey. The issue for the Panthers has been their play in the defensive zone and most importantly, their goaltending. 

The organization thought they’d put the issue to bed in the summer of 2019 when they signed former two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year contract. Unfortunately for Florida, Bobrovsky was a bottom-10 goalie in terms of goals saved above expectation last season. 

While the organization hopes Bobrovsky can bounce back, he will not be ready to start the season, so the Panthers will have to turn to backup Chris Driedger. Driedger was spectacular in limited appearances last season, posting a .938 save percentage. While his performance was encouraging, it’s obviously unsustainable and does not match his pedigree. 

Florida also downgraded on the offensive side of the puck. The team lost Evgenii Dadonov to the Senators and Mike Hoffman to the Blues in free agency and watched 54 goals walk out the building. They have replaced them with Patric Hornqvist and Anthony Duclair, two talented players in their own right.

NHL followers might be willing to move on from the Florida Panthers after being burned by them often in the past few years, but the talent is obvious and the path to success is available in this division.

Panthers-Blackhawks Best Bet

Florida is the better team in this matchup, but I’m not willing to lay the juice required to make a bet on them. At the same time, this number is not quite near where I need it to be in order to place a bet on the Blackhawks.

If by game-time the Blackhawks get into the +135 range, I’d strongly consider a wager on the underdog. 

Chicago has two games under its belt while this is the Panthers’ season opener. Chicago might have the advantage early on while the Panthers get acclimated and find their legs.

In terms of the total, I’d look towards the over in this matchup. Florida finished last year sixth in goals/game and bottom three in goals against/game. Chicago is statistically the worst defense in the league in terms of giving up high-quality chances. The Panthers will be starting their backup goaltender while neither Chicago netminder has given us reason to believe that they’re at the level of an NHL starting goalie. 

The market agrees that this should be a high scoring game as the total is set at 6.5 across the board. I do think both teams should be able to score and I’d expect the winner to need at least four goals in this game. 

The Bet: Over 6.5 Goals (-120)

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