NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Capitals vs. Panthers (November 4)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin
Capitals vs. Panthers Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
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Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals will head to Sunrise for the second leg of a Florida road swing which figures to be treacherous to all comers this season. The Capitals are looking to bounce back after a tough-luck 3-2 defeat Monday at the hands of the back-to-back champion Lightning.
Florida will look to keep things moving in the right direction having had their season-opening 8-0 streak snapped last time out, albeit in a shootout at the hands of a very good Boston Bruins team in a well played contest.
Skating without elite center Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals have managed an impressive 5-1-3 start, and have done so in large due to offensive resurgences from Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Ovechkin’s nine goals and 15 points in November left him as the league’s top star, but my opinion is that Evgeny Kuznetsov’s dominant play as the team’s number one center was possibly even more valuable.
Kuznetsov faced a ton of criticism heading into the offseason after a flurry of office issues and lackadaisical effort, but early returns on a feverish offseason training schedule have been huge for the immensely talented Russian. He has been at a level not seen since posting 32 points in 24 playoff games during the Capitals’ 2018 cup championship.
Behind them, the roster is certainly offering less than usual, but I still like a lot of the depth pieces, as well as a ton of offensive upside from a very aggressive back end with guys like Dmitri Orlov, Nick Jensen, and Justin Schultz showing very well in the early going, as well as the big name in John Carlson.
Connor McMichael appears to be settling in at the NHL level, however he has been unable to break through with his first tally, sitting with -1.8 Goals Below Expected after another good showing against Tampa in which he finished with a 73.5 xGF%.
Ilya Samsonov is likely to start for the Capitals in what continues to be a close fight in the early going for the starter’s role. Samsonov owns a .904 Save % through his first three starts this season, and with -0.7 Goals Saved Above Expected.
What the Panthers have done in the early going of this season has been downright scary, and they have justifiably been moved to a split favorite with Colorado in the Presidents trophy race.
Florida have posted an 8-0-1 record and +18 Goal Differential in the early going of this season, and it’s pretty hard to nitpick any area of this squad.
Behind the elite talents upfront in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau for whom were always going to produce at elite levels, the club has seen significant offensive contributions from a number of depth pieces such as Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Sam Reinhart and rookie Anton Lundell, who appears likely to return Thursday having taken full practice Wednesday.
The result has been 4.00 goals per game, despite having played some top defensive teams such as Boston (twice), the Islanders, and Tampa Bay throughout the early going. The back end offers some defenders with excellent offensive abilities such as Aaron Ekblad and Mackenzie Weegar as well, and it is likely this group can continue to post gaudy offensive totals in the long run.
More surprising to me has been the spectacular play of Sergei Bobrovsky, who has posted a .944 Save % and stopped 13.5 Goals Saved Above Expected over six starts so far.
Bobrovsky was dreadful the previous two years combined however, allowing -21.0 Goals Saved Above Expected, and often times losing the starter’s role even while holding a monstrous contract. I am skeptical of his abilities to hold play at such a tremendous level, and feel that some regression is due to an extent.
That notion will be given a firm test tomorrow night against a Washington team which has traditionally produced strong offensive outputs and figures to be amongst the league’s more dangerous teams again this year.
Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers Pick
DraftKings has opened the total for this one at 5.5 (-120), and I would recommend jumping on that line quickly. I don’t see how a matchup between two of the league’s higher octane offenses warrants a figure below six, even if both have skated in lower scoring contests the last couple times out. I would say with some confidence it won’t sit at 5.5 and -120 come game-time.
The shorthanded Capitals still managed a lot of quality looks against Andrei Vasilevskiy, more so than their two-goal output or 2.99 expected goals suggested Monday, and Vasilevskiy was certainly chosen as the games second star for a reason.
I feel the offense is due to click for better results than we have seen over the last three contests – in which the team has gone a combined -3.19 goals below expected – for a bunch who have very consistently overachieved with regards to expected goals due to team wide offensive creativity and willingness to attempt extra passes.
Florida will by no means be known for their defensive play come season’s end, but they could very realistically finish with the league’s best goals per game output, and I expect them to put together a solid total again tomorrow against a Washington team who certainly haven’t been known for their defensive play the last two seasons.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been stellar in the early going, but I am still confident he will regress closer to what we have seen the last two years, and am not willing to be sold on the smaller sample size.
Pick: Over 5.5 (-120,) Play to -150