New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers: Playoffs Opening Round Free Pick & Predictions

Islanders vs. Panthers
New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers: Playoffs Opening Round Free Pick & Predictions

The NHL season is set to resume with the best-of-five Opening Round series from its two hub cities in Canada. Thanks to the beauty of points percentage, the New York Islanders claimed the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and a matchup with the 10th-seeded Florida Panthers. The Islanders earned 80 points in 68 games before the season was halted while the Panthers had 68 points in 69 games before the pandemic. The first game is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. EST with a potential Game 5 to be played on Aug. 9.

Free Picks & Predictions

This is the most evenly-matched Opening Round series, according to the NHL betting sites in New Jersey, and rightfully so. It’s the series with the most questions heading into the restart, and the only way to answer them will be to play the games themselves.

Florida has the best three skaters in this series with Aleksander Barkov, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau leads the Panthers with 78 points on 23 goals and 55 assists, but Barkov isn’t that far behind with 62 points this year. Hoffman came a goal shy of 30 goals and 30 assists this season and came up a point shy of matching Matthew Barzal’s total of 60 that leads the Islanders.

Like so many playoff series, though, this one will come down to which goalie plays better. Sergei Bobrovski had a disappointing first season in Florida as his save percentage dropped 13 points and his goals against average rose 0.75 goals from last year. However, if he can come close to matching the .925 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average he posted last postseason, Florida has a chance.

The Islanders’ goalie will likely be Semyon Varlamov, who started to get more of the workload before the season paused in March after splitting the first 33 games with Thomas Greiss. Varlamov has three postseasons as a starting goalie under his belt, but he hasn’t played in the playoffs since the 2013-14 season. Yet in 19 postseason games, Varlamov has a .915 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average, which is more than good enough to win this series.

The way to make money on this series would be to get very specific in the wager and try to pick both the series winner and the number of games it will take. The longest odds are either team sweeping the series, but the safest options is to bet on this series going five games. The wager on this series going the full five games is listed at +150 odds and then branch off to parlay it with whichever team you think will win: the Islanders at +375 or the Panthers at +425.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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