NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Prediction: Panthers vs. Maple Leafs (January 17)
Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Head Coach Paul Maurice of the Florida Panthers
- The Panthers head to Toronto for tonight's showdown with the Maple Leafs.
- Florida is on a bit of a hot streak and inching closer to a playoff berth.
- Below, Nicholas Martin explains why he's backing the visiting road underdogs to continue their hot play.
Panthers vs. Maple Leafs Odds
|Maple Leafs Odds||-182|
|Over/Under||6.5 (-112 / -108)|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Three wins in four games have the Florida Panthers crawling back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, and they’ll skate Tuesday against a Toronto Maple Leafs side that has all but locked up a playoff berth.
According to MoneyPuck, the Panthers own a 42.2% chance of avoiding a shocking playoff absence this season. A win as an underdog in this matchup would boost those chances to 48%.
Toronto suffered a tough loss to rival Boston on Saturday and will look to bounce back on home ice as -182 favorites.
Florida Panthers on the Upswing
Last season the Panthers scored 4.11 goals per game – the highest mark any team has ever posted in the salary cap er – and collected Presidents’ Trophy.
Despite losing a key play-driver from a thin blue line, Mackenzie Weegar, it still did not seem likely that the Panthers would regress this meaningfully.
A number of top skaters missing meaningful time has been a large part of the concern, but the Panthers have been skating at closer to full strength recently, and the results are improving as expected.
Florida has played to a 5-3-0 record in January with a strong 52.88% expected goals rating while averaging 3.37 goals for per game.
The Panthers are still skating a wealth of truly elite offensive talent, and coach Paul Maurice’s current line combinations have the top two units looking quite dangerous in recent outings.
Florida played another notably sharp game Monday versus Buffalo in what was a crucial game for both sides. The performance continued to drive home the point that Florida is playing with a high level of urgency and the confidence in its play seems to be rising.
Sergei Bobrovsky started against Buffalo Monday, but with Spencer Knight sidelined, it seems likely that may go again Tuesday as opposed to a debut for Alex Lyon.
Bobrovsky has played to a -0.9 GSAx rating and .899 save % throughout 28 games played.
Uneven Results for Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto has fallen into a much more modest run of play, and over the last 10 games, the Leafs own an xGF% of just 52.41 and a record of just 5-4-1.
Top defender Morgan Rielly has not yet settled into steady form since returning to the lineup, and be it fair or not, he is taking a ton of heat for the Leafs’ recent struggles in a small sample size.
Rasmus Sandin has clearly been one of the Leafs’ best defenders, but he is likely to miss tonight’s contest due to illness. It’s known that some sort of illness is being fought in the Leafs’ locker room right now.
This will be a very important spot for Rielly, and the rest of the Leafs defensive core must manage tough minutes more effectively than we have seen at times over the last two weeks, particularly because the Panthers are looking more and more capable of generating quality scoring chances.
Surprisingly enough, the Leafs’ greater problem has been an inability to generate a ton at the other end.
A 3.34 goals per game average is still 10th best in the league. Outside of its big four offensive superstars, Toronto is not receiving much depth scoring. Looking to deal for depth scoring talent at the deadline seems logical.
Winger Pontus Holmberg is a guy offering some upside to help provide depth scoring, but he also appears likely to miss this contest due to illness.
Matt Murray has been confirmed as the Leafs starter for this matchup. Murray owns a +7.1 GSAx rating and .917 save % in 18 games played.
Panthers vs. Maple Leafs Pick
Florida projects as a likely candidate to continue playing better hockey down the stretch this season as it looks to avoid what would be a pretty stunning playoff miss.
Florida was overvalued entering the season based upon last season’s dominance, but it is also very fair to say that injuries have played a key factor in the disappointing results this year.
Since falling into a run of finally playing at near full-health, the Panthers are beginning to find better results, and the actual on-ice play has been looking sharp.
Toronto will present a very stiff challenge at home Tuesday. I expect the Leafs to play well in this matchup and am not looking too much into this slight dip in form.
However, the Leafs have not been nearly as dominant recently, and Florida appears capable of giving any competition a legitimate test right now. Getting +150 is a strong number to back a Panthers side that is desperate and is looking like a true playoff team once again, and I see value there.
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