Red Wings vs. Panthers Odds & Pick: Detroit Has Value, Even With Goaltender Mystery (Thursday, April 1)

Red Wings vs. Panthers Odds & Pick: Detroit Has Value, Even With Goaltender Mystery (Thursday, April 1) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Calvin Pickard of the Red Wings.

  • Detroit will not be making the playoffs this year and may be down to its third-string goalie on Thursday.
  • Florida will make the playoffs but is adjusting to live post Aaron Ekblad.
  • Matt Russell explains why he likes the Red Wings to pull the upset.

Red Wings vs. Panthers Odds

Red Wings Odds+225
Panthers Odds-275
Time | TVThursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday and via Fanduel.

Even in a shortened year, the NHL season can be long. Especially since the pot at the end of the rainbow is playoff hockey, which is just the best. Normally, the change in the weather is a key clue that the regular season is coming to an end.

This year, with the season’s end scheduled for mid-May, we look for any sign we can get as the calendar turns to April. One such sign will occur in Florida on Thursday night, when the Panthers host the Red Wings in the last meeting between the two teams this season. Yes, it’s our first “last” in the Central Division, the playoffs are coming… eventually. 

Detroit Red Wings

Despite their best efforts, there won’t be playoffs in Motown again this spring. For a team whose goal it is to play a conservative, defensive style of hockey in order to keep them in games, you wouldn’t think betting on the Detroit Red Wings would be such a high-wire act. However, when you’re not told who’s going to be in goal until the last possible moment — and it really matters who that goaltender is — it definitely is pretty risky to recommend a bet on a Red Wings game. 

For the first half of the season, the big issue was whether Jonathan Bernier or Thomas Greiss would start. Bernier was outplaying his teammate, giving the perpetual-underdog Red Wings a chance to win every night. Bernier’s +5.07 Goals Saved Above Average has made him an interesting piece that should be available at the nearing trade deadline. Unfortunately for Detroit (and perhaps his suitors), Bernier suffered an injury last week, and his return, while soon, is still uncertain for their rematch with the Panthers on Thursday. 

Since Bernier was put on the shelf last week, the Red Wings seemed like they would have to rely on Greiss and his -9.41 GSAA to try to compete. He lasted just over seven minutes in that first game, giving up 3 goals on 7 shots to the Predators.

That left the door open for third-string goaltender, Calvin Pickard, to get his chance, and he managed back-to-back wins over Columbus. This earned him a third-straight start, but like Greiss three games before, he didn’t survive the first period, getting pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots. Greiss relieved him and gave up just one goal the rest of the way. So who gets the start on Thursday? Will it be Bernier back from injury, Greiss off a good relief appearance, or another chance for Pickard?

So why would you want the Red Wings, given these circumstances? The short answer is that they’re at least trying to compensate for some shaky goaltending by playing better offensively. In Detroit’s last three games, they’ve earned 2.27, 2.44, and 2.34 Expected Goals For at even-strength, which is three of their top four performances this season. 

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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.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers allowing 2.34 Expected Goals at even-strength shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, even if it was against the often offensively impotent Red Wings. The Panthers appear to be without their star defenceman, Aaron Ekblad, for at least the rest of the regular season. Ekblad is fifth on the team in scoring, and more importantly their leader in Time On Ice.

That didn’t appear to be an issue for the Panthers given the comfortable win on Tuesday, but along with the 2.34 XGA, they only accumulated 1.87 Expected Goals For, after back-to-back games in Dallas where they only had 1.3 Expected Goals in each game. One of the reasons the Panthers' offence has been able to click just enough in order to win these three games, is that second-year center Carter Verhaege is carrying the Panthers offence at this point, with five goals during Florida’s winning streak.

In goal, the Panthers got a quality start from Sergei Bobrovsky in the first matchup, so there’s a case to be made that they go back to their number one for another start, which might not be the worst thing given five of his 11 starts in March resulted in him having a .900 save percentage or worse. Being without their top D-man won’t improve the consistency in net. 

Betting Analysis & Pick

My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, has liked the Red Wings more than most this season, because they’re a far better team at even-strength than when in special teams situations.

As such, the model believes the Wings should be +150 underdogs, but after being +200 on Tuesday and losing, the common price is up to +210 for the Wings. That’s more than enough for me to take my chances with Detroit at the big price, even if I have no idea what to expect from their goaltenders, other than I hope whoever gets the call can make it through the first period. 

Pick: Red Wings (+200 or better)

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