NHL Odds, Picks: Panthers vs. Capitals Prediction & Betting Preview (Saturday, April 8)
Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Lyon.
- The Washington Capitals host the wild-card leading Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
- The red-hot Panthers, winners of five straight, have been led by journeyman goaltender Alex Lyon.
- Continue reading for Carol Schram’s Panthers vs. Capitals preview and pick.
Panthers vs. Capitals Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Continuing their push for the playoffs, the Florida Panthers seek their sixth straight win when they visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
The Panthers climbed into the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference following their fight-filled 7-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin and his teammates are now playing out the string, officially out of the postseason mix for the first time in nine years.
For Florida, 30-year-old journeyman goaltender Alex Lyon has been the story — he’s been in net for all five of their recent wins.
Here’s the latest on both teams, and your best bet for the game.
On the brink of playoff elimination a week ago, the Panthers have surged back into the mix. Over the last five games, they’ve outscored their opponents 24-7, but they’d be nowhere without the heroics of Lyon.
With Sergei Bobrovsky dealing with illness and Spencer Knight in the NHL’s player assistance program, the Panthers have been icing a tandem of Lyon and undrafted 22-year-old Mack Guzda in net — and it’s been working.
Guzda hasn’t been called upon because Lyon has been brilliant. He has kept Florida’s opponents to two goals or fewer in five games since March 29 — including a back-to-back road set in Toronto and Montreal, and despite seeing 40 shots or more in three of those outings, including a 58-shot night against Ottawa on Thursday.
Undrafted himself, Lyon had played just 24 NHL games over five seasons before signing with the Panthers organization last summer. In 12 games with Florida this year, he has 6.3 goals saved above expected to go along with a .916 save percentage. In these last five games, he’s at a 1.40 goals-against average and his save percentage is a ridiculous .961.
Up front, Matthew Tkachuk is finally getting some help after leading the Panthers offense for most of the season. Now at 105 points, he has a 30-point lead on second-place Aleksander Barkov in the team scoring race, and has scored the winning goal in two of the last five games. And while Tkachuk’s eight points in those five games are certainly solid, Barkov and Sam Reinhart each have nine, and defenseman Brandon Montour has led the way with 10.
Five years after winning the Stanley Cup, the Capitals are limping to the finish line this season. In their last nine games, they’re 1-6-2 and have been outscored 16-5 in the last three games — multi-goal losses to the Lightning, Rangers and Canadiens.
As perennial contenders, this situation is unfamiliar to Washington’s core players. So they may not have the mettle to be playing for pride — although Dylan Strome has tried to stoke that fire with recent comments to the media.
In truth, the Capitals have been on the outside looking in for awhile. Since beating the Rangers 6-3 on Feb. 25, they’ve managed just one other win against a team that’s currently in playoff position, beating the Islanders 5-1 on March 11.
Since the trade deadline, Strome and Alex Ovechkin have been producing at better than a point-a-game. Rasmus Sandin has been a solid trade-deadline addition on the blue line. And it’s great to see John Carlson back in action after he suffered a fractured skull just before Christmas. But while the Caps were mostly losing close games in the weeks immediately following the March 3 deadline, those results have now turned into blowouts.
Injuries also continue to be a concern for Washington. T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha are the latest forwards to miss games, and their status is uncertain for Saturday.
Panthers vs. Capitals Pick
Now sitting in the first wild-card spot in the West, the Panthers have three games remaining and no more back-to-backs. So it’s no surprise that they’re planning to go with the man now known as The Lyon King in net in Washington on Saturday.
Typically, the bubble eventually bursts when journeyman goalies get on a hot streak like this. But it can take awhile. This year’s poster child is Pheonix Copley in Los Angeles.
While the randomness of hockey means that past performance is not necessarily a great predictor of future performance, in this case, the trends will probably hold. The Panthers have already logged two multi-goal wins over the Capitals so far this season and are now playing for their playoff lives, while Washington is down to its last few breaths.
With limited value on the moneyline, look at a puck-line victory for Florida.
Pick: Panthers -1.5 (+136 | Play to +115)
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