Panthers vs Lightning: Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

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

It’s easy to write off the Florida Panthers’ hot start, but after dominating the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, Florida is looking more like contenders every day. The Panthers limited Tampa Bay to just 21 shots in Thursday’s win and have been playing some fantastic defense of late to help solidify their spot among the best in the league through the opening month of the season. Tampa Bay is still a strong force in the NHL, but Steven Stamkos’ injury is one the Lightning can afford to be cautious about at the moment.

Free Picks

Someone has to score the goals on the top line for the Panthers, and Hornqvist is that man to finish the deal at the goal. He skates with two excellent playmakers in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on his line, and he’s second on the team with six goals. He has only scored twice in the last eight games, but he’s been a streaky point scorer all season long. He had two previous stretches of three games with at least a point, and he enters Saturday’s contest with points in his previous two games. Hornqvist will find it tough against Tampa Bay’s best defense, but at +250 odds from the hockey betting sites in New Jersey, I’m betting he’ll find a way to sneak one in for the red-hot Panthers.

PATRIC HORNQVIST SCORES GOAL

After scoring at least four goals five times in its previous six games, the Lightning were held to just two power-play goals in Thursday’s loss. Florida has allowed two goals or fewer in three of its last four games and has accomplished the feat six times in its first 11 contests. With Steven Stamkos likely out of the lineup again for Tampa Bay, it’s one fewer offensive weapon for Florida to worry about and gives the Panthers an edge in the faceoff circle. The Lightning are going to come out with more defensive bite after allowing five goals on Thursday, so I expect a low-scoring, tight-checking affair between two teams who know the value of these two points in the overall playoff race. It’s easy to assume that there will be a lot of goals in this game because that is the way things have been in the NHL this season, but prior to allowing five goals on Thursday, Tampa Bay had allowed just one in four straight games. The +195 odds from the NHL betting sites in New Jersey provides the value to bet on these two teams playing it close to the vest with another matchup later in the week in Tampa.

UNDER 5 TOTAL GOALS

The legal sports betting sites in New Jersey continue to overlook the Panthers’ strong start because they are playing the defending champions. However, Florida is benefitting on Saturday from being on home ice, which might be why the Panthers are just +200 odds to win in regulation. Based on what I wrote above, it makes sense to think this game is destined for overtime, but the Lightning have played in just two overtime games in 12 contests this season and Florida hasn’t needed an extra session in its last four contests. Tampa Bay is far different on the road during this pandemic season than it has been at home, and the Panthers are very comfortable on home ice so far this season. That proves to be the difference as Florida protects home ice for the second time in three days against its in-state rival.

FLORIDA PANTHERS WIN IN REGULATION

Best Odds

Florida Tampa Bay
888Sport
+120 -143
Caesars
+125 -145
BetMGM
+125 -150

Statistics

Head to Head

This is the second of eight scheduled meetings between the two in-state rivals in this pandemic-shortened season. Florida won the first matchup of the year on Thursday at home with a convincing 5-2 victory.

Stats

  • Florida hasn’t won multiple games against Tampa Bay since the 2016-17 season when the two teams split their four-game series. Over the last three years, the Lightning have won 10 of the 13 matchups while Florida has earned points in just three of those defeats.
  • In 52 games last season with Tampa Bay, Carter Verhaeghe scored nine goals and had four assists for 13 points. Having moved south this offseason, Verhaeghe has scored seven goals and assisted on three others in his first 11 games with the Panthers.
  • The Panthers have the second-best power play in the league, converting on 36.7 percent of their chances on the man advantage. However, they are killing off just 75 percent of their penalties, which Tampa Bay used to its advantage by scoring twice on three power-play chances Thursday. The Lightning rank eighth in the league with a 27.9 percent success rate while up a man.
  • With two goals in Thursday’s loss, Brayden Point has now scored at least one point in 11 of Tampa Bay’s 12 games this season. Point has five points across his last two games for the Lightning to take the team lead with 16 points this season.

Our Prediction for Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Florida Panthers to win

It’s easy to understand why the Panthers are an underdog against the defending Stanley Cup champions, but Florida is a dangerous team as well. The Panthers are one of two teams in the NHL to have lost just once in regulation and they have done an excellent job on home ice this year. Tampa Bay had won six straight before losing Thursday night, but Steven Stamkos’ absence will loom large again for the Lightning until they can return home Monday.

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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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