Barely squeaking into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers have advanced to the conference finals knocking off the record-setting Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs in previous rounds. Storming back from a 3-1 series deficit to Boston in the opening round, the Panthers have won seven of their last eight games with four of those victories coming in overtime. And six of those eight contests were decided by a single goal with the others being two-goal games. So I guess you can say Florida knows how to win the close games. There weren’t many of those in the previous round for the Carolina Hurricanes, who advanced with a five-game win over New Jersey outscoring the Devils 24-13. Eight of New Jersey’s goals came in Game 3, though. And just like the first two rounds Florida is an underdog in the series and in Game 1, which takes place in Raleigh on Thursday night.
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NHL Playoffs Schedule for Thursday, May 18
Florida at Carolina, 8 p.m. ET (TNT)
NHL Playoffs Picks for Thursday, May 18, 2023
There’s no team hotter in the Stanley Cup playoffs than the Panthers and they are in a familiar position entering Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The odds have dropped a little but Florida remains a dog at +120 on the opening line for Thursday’s matchup as well as being around a +200 dog in the series. No problem, though, after they ousted a Bruins club that established NHL records for wins and points in a season and finished with 43 more points than the Panthers during the regular season.
Surely the magic would end in the second round matchup with Toronto. After all, the Maple Leafs ended years of playoff misery with a first round exorcism of Tampa Bay. Alas, Florida won the first three games and finished the deal with an OT win in Toronto in Game 6.
Fearless is a good way to describe the Panthers. They could have easily cashed it in against the powerful Bruins after losing three of the first four games. They didn’t and won the next three handing Boston its first three-game losing streak of the entire season. Both series clinching wins came in overtime on the road where the Panthers have won six straight after dropping Game 1 in Boston.
In a way Florida was playing playoff hockey over the final month of the regular season battling with several teams for one of the wild card spots. They put together a six-game winning streak near the end of the season with four of those triumphs coming on the road. From that point into the postseason the Panthers are an amazing 10-1 in their past 11 road games. They finished the regular season at 19-19-3 on the road.
Not really known as an offensive juggernaut, the Canes piled on the Devils in the previous round averaging 4.8 goals in the series. They’ve been sound defensively as well this postseason, even though they conceded eight goals in one game to New Jersey. In the other 10 outings they surrendered just 20 goals with Frederik Andersen doing a marvelous job in net. Andersen is 5-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .931 save percentage in six games since taking over for injured Antti Raanta in the Islanders series.
Just because there’s only one game on the Thursday schedule doesn’t mean wagering options are limited. Same game parlays are a fun way to put added emphasis on the matchup. And a smart play would be backing the UNDER on the game score. The Panthers took off when Sergei Bobrovsky was inserted in net in the Boston series. And he was spectacular against Toronto stopping 50 shots in series clinching win. He surrendered two goals in each of the five games sporting a 1.89 GAA and .943 save percentage. A low scoring affair is most likely since each team tossed a shutout during the regular season series with the Canes taking two of three games by a combined 10-7 score.
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