Panthers vs. Lightning: Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

NHL Florida vs Tampa Bay
Florida vs. Tampa Bay, BB&T Center

We know the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet in the postseason for the first time ever this season. Monday’s game between the two in the season finale will decide which team will earn home-ice advantage in this unique season. All Florida needs from this game is a point to secure the edge, and the Panthers have won five in a row entering Monday’s game. Tampa Bay has lost two straight as it closes the season in south Florida and is trying to make its Stanley Cup title defense a bit easier as the second seed in the Central Division.

Free Picks

Frank Vatrano has done surprisingly well against Tampa Bay this season, and I don’t that success will stop Monday in the season finale. Vatrano has points in six of seven games this season against the Lightning, including four goals this year. With 18 goals, Vatrano has the third-most goals on the Panthers and he doesn’t play on the top line, which means more minutes against Tampa Bay’s weaker defensemen. If the Lightning stay true to Saturday and rest their top blue liners who are banged up, Vatrano should cash in on the +250 odds from the legal sports betting sites in New Jersey and score again against Tampa Bay.

FRANK VATRANO SCORES GOAL

I would be shocked if Tampa Bay turns to Andrei Vasilevskiy in the season finale, and the Lightning’s goaltending situation behind him is sketchy. Curtis McElhinney and Chris Gibson both have .875 save percentages and Tampa Bay is 5-7-2 when either one starts a game. Tampa Bay’s defense is normally good enough to stop opponents from scoring a lot, but the Lightning will likely be shorthanded on defensemen in preparation for the playoffs. It’s a perfect storm for the Panthers, who have scored five goals or more four times in the last five games. I’ve rarely been this excited about a bet with +260 odds from the NHL betting sites in New Jersey as I am for this one.

FLORIDA PANTHERS OVER 4 GOALS

The odd part about Monday’s game is that there is something on the line for both Florida and Tampa Bay, yet it doesn’t feel relevant to this game. As the defending champions, I don’t think home-ice advantage means as much to Tampa Bay, especially given how many weapons the Lightning should be returning for the playoffs. It feels like the home ice means more to Florida as it has the best season in franchise history and look to advance out of the first round for the second time in team history. As a result, I think the Lightning will rest players in order to be fully healed for the postseason and the Panthers will be able to take care of business in regulation. At +135 odds from the hockey betting sites in New Jersey, it’s the most conservative bet I could have on the outcome of this game.

FLORIDA PANTHERS WIN IN REGULATION

Best Odds

Florida Tampa Bay
888Sport
-125 +102
FanDuel
-118 +100
BetMGM
-125 +105

Statistics

Head to Head

This is the eighth and final matchup of the season between Florida and Tampa Bay as the Panthers have won four of the first seven to stake a claim to home ice in the playoffs at the moment.

Stats

  • The Panthers’ offense has come alive at the right time as the playoffs near. During Florida’s current five-game winning streak, it has scored at least five goals four times while averaging nearly 43 shots per game. The shots are not surprising for a team that leads the NHL with 35 shots per game this season, but Florida had been scoring at just 9.6 percent of shots, which is three percentage points less than what it has shot the last five games.
  • It’s been an ugly two games for the Lightning since they won six of seven games and earned points in all seven contests. Tampa Bay has allowed five goals in consecutive games and combined for just three goals in that span. The Lightning have actually scored three or more goals just once in the last five games and its vaunted power play has scored just four time in 29 chances over the last 10 games.
  • It will be interesting to see if the Lightning turn back to Andrei Vasilevskiy on Monday with home-ice on the line. The Vezina Trophy favorite leads the league with 31 wins this season and has played 41 of Tampa Bay’s first 55 games. He has a .926 save percentage and 2.17 goals against average this season after allowing five goals on 35 shots in Saturday’s loss to the Panthers.
  • Once again, the NHL has overlooked the dynamic scoring duo in Florida with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Both rank in the top-15 of NHL scorers this season, one of five sets of teammates who have at least 57 points this season. Huberdeau leads the Panthers with 61 points, courtesy of 41 assists, and Barkov has 57 points whole ranking ninth in the league with 26 goals.

Our Prediction for Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Florida Panthers to win

I can’t imagine the Tampa Bay Lightning panicking too much about home-ice advantage to put out a strong lineup Monday. Tampa Bay held out three important defensemen in Saturday’s loss to the Florida Panthers so they could be full strength for the postseason, and I expect a similarly cautious gameplan Monday. The Lightning won’t be anywhere near their best Monday with this lineup and Florida should be able to capitalize on the weakened state. It might lull them into a false sense of security when it comes to the playoffs, but the Panthers will try to make a statement in capturing the second seed in the Central Division.

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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

All Reviews by Josh Walfish

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