NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Pick: Panthers vs. Islanders (October 13)
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: The Florida Panthers celebrate.
- The Islanders host the Panthers to open up the new season.
- Florida was dominant in the regular season last year but stumbled in the playoffs. Will it be any different this time around?
- Ryan Dadoun previews the matchup and shares his best bet below.
Panthers vs. Islanders Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
There's no question the Panthers were the better team on paper last season and when they played against each other, the outcome was largely as expected. These two teams have undergone some changes since then, but was it enough to mitigate Florida's considerable edge?
The Panthers dominated throughout the 2021-22 regular season and cruised to a 58-18-6 record on the back of the only offense in the salary cap era to average more than four goals per game. However, when it came to the playoffs, they showed cracks in the armor against the Washington Capitals in the first round and were then embarrassed by Tampa Bay. That unparalleled regular-season offense managed just three goals against goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy as the Panthers were swept by the Lightning.
When faced with a reality check like that, franchises are forced to decide between running it back or making heavy adjustments and the Panthers leaned toward the latter. While much of the core offense is back, scoring leader Jonathan Huberdeau is not. Florida traded Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar — both of whom had just a year left on their respective deals — to the Calgary Flames to secure Matthew Tkachuk, who will add an extra edge to Florida's top-six.
Florida also decided to replace Andrew Brunette with Paul Maurice. While Brunette deserves credit for guiding the Panthers in the regular season after what happened with Joel Quenneville, the organization clearly wanted someone more experienced leading the team during their playoff window and Maurice more than qualifies in that regard.
Even still, much of the group has been waiting nearly five months for a chance to put the sweep behind them and prove that this is the Panthers' time. That quest is about to officially start.
New York Islanders
Speaking of teams that got embarrassed, the Islanders went from a franchise that made the Conference Finals in back-to-back years (technically semis in 2021) to one that didn't even come close to the playoffs in 2021-22.
That did lead to them parting ways with one of the most respected coaches in the game, Barry Trotz. They replaced him with Lane Lambert, who has been a coach for a long time, but will be making his debut as a NHL bench boss. On the ice though, this is pretty much the same core the Islanders had last season.
Consequently, New York is entering the campaign with plenty to be desired offensively. Mathew Barzal has shown he can be a decent top line forward, but he hasn't developed into a true star. To be fair to him though, he also hasn't had a ton to work with.
Brock Nelson and Anders Lee were the only players to even reach the 20-goal milestone with the Islanders last season. Contrast that with the Panthers, who had six players score at least 20 goals.
What the Islanders do have going for them is their goaltending. Semyon Varlamov is a great netminder, even as he enters his mid 30s, and he's not even their best option. Ilya Sorokin established himself as one of the best goaltenders in the league with a 2.40 GAA and .925 save percentage in 52 starts and it's entirely possible he'll be even better this time around.
Panthers vs. Islanders Pick
Unsurprisingly, the Panthers are the heavy favorites in this one. Florida won all three of its matchups against the Islanders last season by a combined margin of 14-4.
It is worth noting that the two blowout losses came early in the season and were in Florida. When the Islanders and Panthers had a rematch in New York in April, the Islanders held their own before ultimately losing 3-2 in overtime. Plus, you can never rule out the possibility of Sorokin stealing the game.
All of that is enough to make me shy away from taking Florida with the 1.5-goal spread, but I still like the Panthers on the moneyline. For as much of a fight as the Islanders are capable of putting up, Florida just packs such a big punch.
Pick:Florida Panthers Moneyline -130, (play to -145)