Panthers vs. Predators NHL Odds & Pick: Look Towards the Total In Defensive Battle (March 4)

Panthers vs. Predators NHL Odds & Pick: Look Towards the Total In Defensive Battle (March 4) article feature image

Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images. Pictured: Frank Vatrano (77) of the Florida Panthers.

  • Despite preseason projection footing Nashville and Florida on the same tier, the teams are headed in opposite directions.
  • While they may be distant in the standings, both teams have some of hockey's best defenses.
  • Pete Truszkowski explains why to focus on the total in this matchup.

Panthers vs. Predators Odds

Panthers Odds-136
Predators Odds+118
Time8 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings.

Coming into this NHL season, most had both the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators tabbed as talented but flawed hockey teams who will compete for a playoff spot, both destined for the middle tier of the Central Division.

As we approach the midway point of the season, however, these two teams have gone on divergent paths. The Florida Panthers have points in 17 of their first 21 games while the Predators find themselves below .500 and falling out of the playoff picture fast. What does this mean for Thursday’s matchup between the two teams?

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers have been a maddening team for the past few seasons. The talent was there, but the results weren’t. Until this year, that is.

Florida has come out of the gates with a 13-4-4 record which puts them in third place in the Central Division (second based off points percentage). The underlying metrics say this start is no fluke.

The Panthers rank second in terms of expected goal rate. They rank fifth in both shot attempt rate and high danger chance percentage. The Panthers play with the puck in the offensive zone, and they do a good job of creating chances while limiting their opponents. 

While Florida is more known for their ability to score goals, it’s actually their defense that has carried the weight thus far. Florida ranks second in expected goals against per hour. The team is giving up less than seven high danger chances per hour at 5-on-5, the best mark in the league. The trio of Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad and Mackenzie Weeger helps drive offense from the blueline. Anton Stralman, Radko Gudas and Markus Nutivaara are more known for their play in their own zone. 

Offensively, the Panthers are led by a duo of elite talents in Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexander Barkov. Both players are averaging better than a point per game. Offensive additions like Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair have all either met or surpassed expectations. 

The Panthers hope the recent string of performances is a sign of things to come from Sergei Bobrovsky. He had a rough first year in Sunrise and arguably lost his starting job to begin this season. However, his last three games have been what Florida expected when they signed him to a massive contract in 2019. 

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Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators have won just 10 of their first 22 games, and their season is on the brink of being lost. The Predators find themselves eight points behind the Chicago Blackhawks, who occupy the final playoff spot in the Central Division. 

It won’t be an easy climb for Nashville, especially with recent injury news. Starting goaltender Juuse Saros left Tuesday’s game after taking a high hit from Nino Niederreiter. Ryan Johansen landed on the COVID list. Star defenseman Ryan Ellis will be out 4-6 weeks. Depth forward Luke Kunin will also miss a few weeks. 

The injuries are just the latest in what has been a disappointing season for Nashville. Filip Forsberg is the only forward pulling his weight. Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, and Johansen were expected to provide scoring for the Predators, but none of them have even eclipsed double digits in points. 

In fact, Forsberg and defenseman Roman Josi are the only two Nashville skaters to crack double digits in the point column. Considering we’re 22 games into the season, that’s almost unfathomable. It’s no surprise to see Nashville ranks 28th in goals per game, scoring just 2.27 a night on average. 

While scoring has been almost non-existent, the Predators' defense has done its best to keep Nashville in games. Nashville ranks in the top third of the league in terms of limiting shot attempts, high danger chances and scoring chances. They are allowing under two expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5, which puts them in the top five of the league. 

Nashville should turn to Pekka Rinne in net with Saros out. Rinne has bounced back after an awful year in 2019-20, posting a solid .913 save percentage. He’s been much better than Saros to begin the year, who has struggled mightily. 

Panthers vs. Predators Best Bet

While the standings say this is a mismatch, the underlying metrics suggest these teams are closer than we think. Florida is still better, but puck possession and shot generation metrics suggest the Predators are a good team who’s fallen victim to below-average goaltending, poor shooting luck and subpar special teams. 

I was higher on the Predators than most coming into the season, but I’ve come off of them with the offense being as dreadful as it is. Matt Duchene was one of the more marquee free agents of the last decade, and he’s turned into an average second-line center through his first 100 games in Nashville. 

With the current line, I’d consider betting Nashville if they were at full health. However, Ryan Ellis is a huge loss that could impact things significantly. The rash of injuries the Preds have suffered in the past few games has me looking for another avenue to bet this game.

With both teams ranking in the top five in terms of expected goals-against, I would make a play on the under in this game. Neither Rinne nor Bobrovsky is the most confidence-inspiring option at the moment, but both have track records as elite goaltenders in the recent past. 

The extra half goal gives me the confidence to play the under here in a matchup of two good defensive teams. Hopefully we get the requisite saves. 

Pick: Under 6 Goals 

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