Panthers vs. Lightning Game 6 Odds & Prediction: Underdog Holds Betting Value (May 26)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images. Pictured: Spencer Knight celebrates with teammates.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning will take on the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of their NHL Playoff series on Wednesday night.
- The underdog Panthers need a win to stay alive, and Mike Ianniello sees that happening.
- Check out Ianniello's full betting breakdown complete with odds, a pick, and prediction for the game below.
Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Odds
After the Tampa Bay Lightning took Games 1 and 2 on the road, it looked like one of the most anticipated first round series could end sooner than expected. The Panthers have clawed back, though, winning two the next three games to force a Game 6.
The Battle of Florida has been the highest-scoring series of the first round, averaging 7.4 goals per game between the two and also the most physical, combining for 38.8 penalty minutes per game through the first five contests.
Panthers Have Proven Tough
Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville showed why he is a three-time Stanley Cup champion with his ballsy move in Game 5 to turn to rookie goaltender Spencer Knight after Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger looked shaky. Turning 20-years-old just last month, Knight became the youngest goaltender in NHL history to make his playoffs debut in an elimination game. After allowing an early goal, Knight stopped the next 36 shots he faced to lead Florida to the win.
The Connecticut native gained national attention when he helped the United States win a gold medal at the 2021 World Junior Championships against Canada. After finishing his career at Boston College, where he was named Hockey East Player of the Year, Knight joined the Panthers and made his NHL debut on April 20. He finished the regular season 4-0 with a .919 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average.
Despite being down 3-2 in the series, Florida has actually largely outplayed the Lightning. Florida has played the first five games to a 58.8 xGF% and 60.8 High Danger Chance % in all situations and 55.0 xGF% and 55.1 HDCF% at 5-on-5. Florida has led the xGF% battle in all five games this series.
The Tampa Bay stars get more of the spotlight, but Florida’s top forwards have dominated in terms of On-Ice Expected Goals%. Patrick Hornqvist (84.2%), Jonathan Huberdeau (76.5%), Carter Verhaeghe (74.9%), Aleksander Barkov (73.7%) and Sam Bennett (72%) have all skated to over 70% xGF%. Huberdeau leads all players in the postseason with 10 points
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
Net Difference For Lightning
A lot of people were upset and felt like the Lightning cheated the system the way they skated around the salary cap by leaving Nikita Kucherov on Long-Term Injured Reserve for the entire regular season. Well at the end of the day, Tampa Bay was able to get away with that because most teams are not capable of sitting their best player for the entire season and still making the playoffs like the Bolts were able to do.
Any morons — like myself — who thought Kucherov would be rusty were quickly proven wrong, as he came out with two goals in Game 1 and leads Tampa Bay with nine points this series and a 69.3 xGF%.
Despite losing the xGF% battle, the strength for Tampa Bays has been its power play. Clicking at 41.2%, the Lightning lead the playoffs with seven power play goals in 17 chances. Kucherov and Hedman lead all players with six power-play points this postseason.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was one of the best goalies in the league all season and has been the difference in this series to give Tampa Bay the advantage. While he hasn’t been dominant like we saw at times in the regular season, he has been much better than Bobrovsky and Driedger.
Vasilevskiy is second among all goaltenders in the playoffs with 5.6 GSAx compared to the Panthers first two starters combining for -6.8 GSAx. Knight was able to outplay Vasilevskiy in Game 5, but will the rookie netminder be able to keep that up for two more games?
Betting Analysis & Pick
Prior to the start of the first round, I bet the Florida Panthers to win this series at +125. They were the better team during the regular season, and the return of Kucherov to Tampa Bay made this matchup a coin flip at worst for the Panthers.
Through the first five games, the Panthers have outplayed the Lightning to a 58.8 xGF% and have been the better team, despite trailing 3-2 in the series. The advantage for Tampa Bay has been in net.
Quenneville’s decision to start Knight in goal for Game 5 tilted the balance back in Florida’s favor and it came away with the victory. I know it might be a little nerve-wracking to back a rookie goaltender against the defending Stanley Cup champions, but think this game is still a coin flip.
Knight has shined on the big stage before, dominating the World Juniors Championships, and shutting out Team Canada in the Gold Medal game. Any doubts the kid could handle this moment disappeared after Game 5, and especially following his post-game interview. “I just was trying to have fun and it’s still hockey right,” Knight said. “I’m on this ice every single day, it’s just a different setting.”
Take a bow, Spencer Knight.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) May 25, 2021
This price should but much closer to even money so I will gladly back the Panthers to force a Game 7 at +140 and would play them all the way down to +110.
Pick: Florida Panthers ML +140