It’s been a good spring for sports teams and fans in South Florida. The improbable playoff runs of the NBA’s Heat and the NHL’s Florida Panthers continue as the No. 8 seeds in their respective playoffs are that much closer to playing for a championship. The Panthers were playing playoff hockey even before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began and that desperation was prevalent in their opening round win over record-setting Boston. Taking out the top seed in the Eastern Conference after dropping three of the first four games, the Panthers haven’t slowed down. Three straight victories over the Bruins was the start of a surge that saw Florida win nine of 10 games, including taking the first two of the Eastern Conference Finals over the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime on the road. Having won all six of their overtime games, the Panthers feel invincible. They are also 7-1 in games decided by a single goal.
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NHL Playoffs Schedule for Wednesday, May 24
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 4
Carolina at Florida, 8 p.m. ET (TNT)
NHL Playoffs Picks for Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Carolina could’ve easily won the first two games or at least split and the series would look much different. They didn’t, though, and thus winning on the road has taken on added importance. Scoring more goals is also a huge topic for the Canes. After demolishing New Jersey in the previous round by scoring 24 goals in five games, the offense has been silenced. It hasn’t been for a lack of effort, though. The Canes outshot Florida in each of the first two games with a 103-86 advantage. They also won more than 53 percent of the faceoffs and had a Corsi rating of 51.2 percent.
The chances are there but the Canes haven’t capitalized. They scored first in each of the first two games and failed to extend the lead. And the first two games were a good example of just how close the teams are. Seth Jarvis hit the crossbar on a power play in the four-overtime Game 1 loss. In Game 2, a Florida coach’s challenge was successful negating a Canes goal that would have given them a 2-0 lead. “It’s not like they’ve been dominating us or any of that,” Sebastian Aho said.
An area coach Rod Brind’Amour would like to see improve is the power play. Jarvis and Stefan Noesen scored with the man advantage in Game 1, but the Canes failed to convert in the first overtime. The Canes also had a power play late in regulation in Game 2 but failed again. “Got to score, got to score. You have to put them in. Close doesn’t count this time of year,” Brind’Amour said.
He wasn’t even the starter when the playoffs started, but Sergei Bobrovsky is moving up the list of favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He backstopped Florida to three straight wins over Boston in the first round and has been brilliant since the start of the second round series against Toronto. He’s 6-1 in that seven-game stretch boasting a 1.51 GAA and .953 save percentage. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of those starts. Keeping the scoring to a minimum has allowed Florida to cash the UNDER in all seven of those games.
The Panthers have also benefitted from the play of Matthew Tkachuk, who netted the OT winner in each of the first two games and has three skate-off winners this postseason. Tkachuk failed to score in the Toronto series, though he did chip in five assists. He leads the club with seven goals and 18 points through 14 games and comes in with odds of +158 to tickle the twine again. Scorers get hot and the goals come in bunches make this prop playable on a same game parlay. I do think Florida’s good fortune will end, though, leaving the Canes as Game 4 winners.
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