NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Lightning vs. Panthers (October 21)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Lightning vs. Panthers (October 21) article feature image

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86).

  • The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers will go head-to-head Friday night.
  • The Panthers (-115) are slight favorites at home, but Nicholas Martin sees value elsewhere.
  • He dives into the matchup and his betting pick below.

Lightning vs. Panthers Odds

Lightning Odds-105
Panthers Odds-115
Over/Under6.5 (-130 / +105)
Time7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM, whose bonus code gets you $1,050 in value.

Florida will look to extract a measure of revenge over its in state rival Friday night, as the Panthers host the Lightning for the first meeting of the season.

Tampa Bay has knocked off Florida in back-to-back postseasons, including a dominant 4-0 sweep last year, which put an end to the Panthers Presidents Trophy winning campaign.

Early on this season the Lightning has scuffled to a record of 1-3-0, and suffered an embarrassing loss to the upstart Philadelphia Flyers last time out on home ice.

Florida meanwhile moved to 3-1-0 Wednesday, taking advantage of a Philly team which had played a tough contest the night before versus the Lightning.

Is this Florida's time to put up a rare win over the Lightning?

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Slow-Starting Lightning Still Have Superior Talent

Tampa's poor early play this season is actually far from surprising considering what we have seen in each of the previous two years, where the Lightning have looked very unengaged at times to start the regular season.

Who can blame them, as it is very reasonable to think that it is somewhat hard to play with a ton of urgency at times early on, after three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final.

That's something that makes handicapping the Lightning weird to an extent, as it can be a bit of a guessing game at times trying to gauge what kind of form you expect to see moving forward and on any given night.

With that said the talent the Lightning simply have far too much talent left on the roster to not achieve better results in the near future.

The loss of Anthony Cirelli to start the season is meaningful, but Tampa still has an exceptional roster left in his absence.

Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos are still three true superstars leading the charge up front. While the depth beyond that trio has dipped to an extent, the Lightning are still yielding a better forward crops altogether than the much of the league.

Tampa's defensive core is still likely second-best league wide behind only the Avalanche, and I have no concerns the personnel on hand will not kick into a higher gear moving forward.

Same goes for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who by any account is either the best goalie alive or the second best goalie alive. Vasilevskiy has looked strong to start this season with a +1.9 goals saved above expected rating and a .912 save %, and he should draw this important start as the Bolts look to bounce-back from an embarrassing loss to the Flyers.

Shorthanded Panthers Vulnerable on Defense

When Florida traded away it's second-best defensemen last offseason being Mackenie Weegar to acquire Matthew Tkachuk, many pundits such as myself pointed out just how thin the back end had became, and that the Panthers were an injury away from holding a very poor blue-line.

That theory is being put to the test right out of the gates this season, as the Panthers have lost top defensemen Aaron Ekblad due to injury, and will now need to see some strong form from unlikely candidates.

To make matters worse defender Brandon Montour is also day-to-day for the time being, and his status for this contest is still up in the air after missing the Philadelphia game.

The good news for Panthers fans, is that the team has played to soundly to a 3-1-0 record for the time being, and the player GM Bill Zito paid such a steep fee to acquire, is thriving in the early going on a line with Aleksandr Barkov.

Matthew Tkachuk paces the team with six points in the opening four games of the season, while Barkov has managed a point-per-game output himself.

Florida's 53.96 xGF% is a very steady number that supports its solid play in the early going, but we still have not truly seen the Panthers take the ice in a spot like this short the services of Aaron Ekblad.

Florida got by Wednesday night without Ekblad, but that was playing as gigantic favorites over the Philadelphia Flyers on a back-to-back, and tomorrow will prove a much tougher test for young defensemen like Lucas Carlsson and Matt Kiersted.

Sergei Bobrovsky seems still be viewed as the Panthers No. 1 netminding option ahead of Spencer Knight and therefore will likely get this big start, although I believe the two will likely play to surprisingly similar numbers this season.

Bobrovsky had a great bounce-back season in 2021-22, and has started this campaign off with strong play again playing to a .919 save % and +1.9 goals saved above expected rating throughout two starts.

Lightning vs. Panthers Pick

Florida managed to get by versus Philadelphia without the services of Aaron Ekblad, but I would not count on that trend continuing Friday in a spot against a Lightning team which likely will have a chip on it's shoulder over a 1-3-0 start.

Tampa are going to be skating a more complete roster in this spot considering it's far more talented back-end and Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal, and I feel that a price near pick-em is strong all things considered.

Tampa likely are not going to fall down the standings much longer, and I believe will put a stop to the bleeding here versus it's state rival, in what should be the NHL's game of the night.

Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning -105 (Play to -125)

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