Proving that winning the President’s Trophy for amassing the most points during the regular season doesn’t mean a whole lot when the playoffs start, the Florida Panthers dropped Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff series to the Washington Capitals, 4-2. Having stolen home ice advantage with an upset victory, the Caps look to take control of the series when the scene shifts to our nation’s capital for Game 3 on Saturday.
The Stanley Cup Playoff matchup between the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals takes place at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 7, 2022, from Capital One Arena in Washington DC and will air live on ESPN. BookMaker.eu will have odds for every game on the NHL playoff schedule.
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The free-wheeling Panthers found ice and goals a little harder to come by in the opener of the series. Florida led the league with 122 points and 340 goals winning 71 percent of their games. But based on the regular season series they should’ve expected a hard-fought opener and they weren’t ready. All three meetings during the season were decided by one goal with Florida winning twice, including the first meeting at home in overtime. After scoring 13 goals in those three games and averaging 4.1 during the season, the Panthers were held to just a pair. It was the third time in four games dating back to the end of the regular season that Florida scored just twice. They lost all three as a favorite while cashing the UNDER each time.
The Caps aren’t too shabby on the offensive end averaging 3.3 goals during the season. And after playing three one-goal games against the top team in the league they definitely aren’t going to roll over. Giving them another bolt of confidence was that they accomplished something no team did this season against the Panthers. Trailing 2-1 entering the third period of Game 1, the Caps scored three times for the 4-2 triumph. Teams were 0-39-1 against the Panthers during the regular season when trailing after two periods and they lost all 22 in regulation on Florida’s home ice. The Caps are proud of the comeback and stealing home ice, but they aren’t taking it for more than it is.
Things tend to tighten up during the Stanley Cup playoffs and winning on the road isn’t easy. It would behoove the Panthers to concentrate more on preventing goals than scoring them. The offense is there and will come organically during the course of the game; stopping goals takes more effort. And the Panthers had a few rough outings at the end of the regular season allowing eight goals in a loss to Tampa and 10 to the Canadiens in the season finale. They were middle of the road defensively allowing 2.95 goals per game during the season.
Three players averaged more than a point per game during the regular season and all three were held off the score sheet in Game 1. Getting more production from Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart will help Florida’s chances of getting a victory. And all three haven’t been held in check all season.
Doing what they had to do on the road, the Caps put themselves in a good spot in the series, now all they have to do is protect home ice. Winning at home wasn’t a strong part of their game during the season and likely cost them a chance at finishing among the top-3 in the Metropolitan Division. I guess we can’t be too concerned with that now, but it is a talking point heading into Game 3. The Caps went just 19-16-6 at Cap One Arena during the season, though they did beat the Panthers, 4-3, in their only visit to DC.
Given the data throughout the season this should be a close series and it’s hard to see one team having a runaway victory. That’s a good reason to play the puckline since the four matchups were decided by five goals. And the Caps showed they have the ability to comeback beating Florida at its game. They also got a solid game from Vitek Vanecek in net stopping 30 of 32 shots in the opener. He had a .908 save percentage and 2.67 GAA in 42 regular season games.
NHL Odds Pick
The Caps aren’t going to shut down Florida’s top scorers for the entire series and the Panthers are too strong on the puck with four lines that can produce. We’ll see guys like Huberdeau, Barkov, Claude Giroux and Aaron Ekblad do what they do best to get Florida their own road win.
NHL Odds Prediction: Panthers 5, Capitals 3
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