NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Panthers vs Ducks (Friday, November 17)
(Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
Panthers vs. Ducks Odds
After falling just short of the Stanley Cup, Florida is primed to make another run. However, the Panthers will be on the second half of a back-to-back and playing for the third time in four days against a difficult, rested opponent on Friday.
Let's preview that contest and offer a Panthers vs. Ducks prediction.
In contrast to last year where Florida finished sixth offensively, the 2023-24 Panthers are tied for 16th (3.27). However, from Nov. 6-15, during which the Panthers won five straight, Florida played more like the Panthers of old and tallied 4.60 goals per game over that stretch.
It all starts with Sam Reinhart, who had scored 12 goals and racked up 23 points through his first 15 contests this year. He's recorded 65 or more points in three prior seasons, so Reinhart has been great for a while, but this is the first time he's performed like a Hart Trophy contender.
He's very unlikely to sustain this pace — his shooting percentage (24.5%) is likely to steeply drop toward his career average of 14.5% — but Reinhart entered Thursday's action on a five-game multi-point streak, so he hasn't shown any signs of decline yet.
Speaking of hot forwards, Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov haven't matched Reinhart's insane season totals, but they've still been great overall and even better recently. Tkachuk is riding a seven-game scoring streak (two goals, eight assists), while Barkov has three multi-point showings over his past four outings (three goals, three assists). Just behind them is Carter Verhaeghe, who was on a three-game goal-scoring run as of Thursday (three tallies, two assists).
Still, can those hot players find a way to stay effective while playing on no rest at the tail end of a road trip that's taken the team across the country?
A year ago, it would have been easy to declare Florida the heavy favorites and just move on, even after considering the Ducks' favorable circumstances as the rested and home team. The Ducks were still very much in the rebuilding end of the spectrum, but things are a bit more nuanced now. It might be premature to call Anaheim a contender, but with a 9-7-0 start, this team is certainly showing that its made serious strides in that direction.
There's no one key to Anaheim's success. Frank Vatrano's hot start of 11 goals and 16 points in 16 contests has certainly helped, but he hasn't been singlehandedly driving the offense. The Ducks have four other players with double-digit point totals and three others with at least five goals.
The most encouraging one is Mason McTavish. Vatrano isn't expected to maintain his goal pace as the campaign progresses, but McTavish, who has seven goals and 16 points through 16 games, might keep this up. The 20-year-old had just 43 points as a rookie in 2022-23, but entered the campaign with immense offensive upside that now appears to be fully realized.
Anaheim's also been far better defensively this year. In 2022-23, the Ducks ranked last in goals allowed per game (4.09), but are now a far more acceptable 14th (3.19). John Gibson is playing his best hockey in years, posting a 2.19 GAA and a .927 save percentage through nine starts. That's been critical because the Ducks' defense in front of him is still a problem. That defense ranked last in xGA in 2022-23 (320.76) and is only marginally better at 29th (55.29) this year.
Panthers vs. Ducks
Betting Pick & Prediction
ESPN Bet is now live! Make sure you're ready for all the action with our exclusive ESPN BET promo code TANBONUS.
Oddsmakers still consider Florida a significant favorite, despite Anaheim's improved performance and favorable circumstances. Taking the Ducks on FanDuel's moneyline offers a tempting +130 potential return.
What makes it even more compelling is the Panthers showed weakness in the second leg of back-to-backs last year, going just 3-6-3. Playing on no rest might be especially problematic again this campaign because it means starting Anthony Stolarz. His 2-1-0 record, 2.71 GAA and .892 save percentage through three contests doesn't look great, and gets even worse when factoring in that two of those three games were against the Sharks and the other was versus the 5-9-0 Blackhawks.
Anaheim is Stolarz's first real test of the season and given his middling play against weaker competition, combined with his 3.73 GAA and .897 save percentage in 19 outings as a member of the Ducks last year, he's likely to struggle against his former team.
For that reason, I recommend chasing the higher potential payout and betting Anaheim.