Panthers vs. Lightning Odds, Preview, Prediction: Which Goaltender Will Prove Better in Tampa? (November 13)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Sergei Bobovskry.
- Florida and Tampa meet on Saturday for one of the NHL's best new rivalries.
- After a hot start, the Panthers have dropped three straight but look to rebound over a Lightning team still not up to its championship form.
- Greg Liodice breaks down the game and gives his top pick, below.
Panthers vs. Lightning Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
When you think of hockey rivalries, a few come to mind. To name a few, you have Boston/Montreal, Rangers/Islanders, Battle of Alberta. In the past, the Florida teams never felt like a legitimate rivalry, until they faced off last year in the playoffs. It was a nasty series, which always makes for good hockey. The Florida Panthers won the first battle earlier this season, and now the defending champs Tampa Bay Lightning seek their revenge.
The Panthers are finally getting recognized as one of the best teams in the NHL. Entering this matchup, they hold a 10-2-2 record, good enough for second best in the East. Coming off a heartbreaker in Pittsburgh losing in a shootout, Florida seeks to get back on the hump against its main rivals.
Tampa Bay has been the gold standard in hockey the past two seasons, as shown by its back-to-back Stanley Cups. With a few large changes, and a key injury to Nikita Kucherov, Tampa always manages to adapt and is staying strong in the standings with 15 points. Similar to its counterparts, Tampa is coming off a tough loss in overtime to the Hurricanes, except it has been on three-days rest.
Bobrovsky Has Returned to Form for Panthers
It’s been a long road that the Panthers have travelled to get to this point. Year after year, they found themselves in the lottery, and now they’re among the East’s elite. However, it comes with a bump in the road. Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville resigned earlier this month amidst the Chicago Blackhawks scandal, and with inexperienced Andrew Brunette taking over, it may have disjointed the team. After going 10-0-1 to start the season, they’ve lost their last three, and are desperately trying to get back to form.
Florida comes with a high-octane offense. Key players like captain Sasha Barkov (15 points), Anthony Duclair (14 points) and Jonathan Huberdeau (13 points) have all contributed to the success. Generating quality scoring chances has been the Panthers’ specialty as they’re a top-five team in Expected Goals per 60, scoring at a 3.02 rate, as well as 120 high-danger chances.
After signing Sergei Bobrovsky to a massive seven-year, $70-million contract, he did not live up to expectations. He even took a backseat to Chris Driedger (who’s now on Seattle) most times last year. However, Bobrovsky has taken a step forward and reached that Vezina-like groove that Florida signed him for. The man they call “Bob” is posting an eye-popping .946 SV% as well as a 14.4 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx), which is best among all netminders.
Lightning Still Searching for Championship Form
When a team goes through a stretch of pure dominance like the Lightning have, it isn’t easy to keep the core together in the cap world. Although all of their superstars are still with the team, they haven’t been as dominant as they were. Losing their whole third line from last year has hurt, but they’re keeping afloat, placing fourth in the Atlantic. Opposing teams always have a reason to be afraid of the Bolts when facing off against captain Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman. The defending champs won’t ever make it easy.
In previous years, the Bolts always dominated at generating scoring chances, but it hasn’t been so easy this year. Currently, they stand in the bottom half of the league in expected goals per 60 with a 2.26 xGF, and in generating 106 high-danger chances. Tampa usually finds itself in the top 10 in those categories, but perhaps the loss of Kucherov and its third line has hampered production.
One man who hasn’t slowed down has been net-minder Andrei Vasilevskiy. The big Russian is probably the best goaltender in the world. He can take over any game at any time, driving opponents crazy, no matter what kind of chances they throw at him. Last year’s Conn Smythe winner is picking up where he left off with a .920 SV% and a 4.9 GSAx.
Panthers vs. Lightning Pick
This has been a game that many in the Sunshine State have marked on their calendars, and I think it’ll be an exciting one.
Vasilevskiy’s track record speaks for itself, and Bobrovsky has come back into form, so I expect this to be a battle of the goaltenders (with a lot of nastiness mixed in).
However, Florida is coming into this game with something to prove after losing three straight. As hard as it is to bet against the champs, I’m backing the Panthers for this bout.
Pick: Florida Panthers at -105.
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