Wednesday’s seven game NHL slate offers us some intriguing games. Below, you’ll find my two favorite plays for the night.
In a division that features the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Western Conference Champion Dallas Stars and the analytical darling Carolina Hurricanes, it’s the Florida Panthers who are currently leading the way.
The Panthers have a 12-3-2 record through 17 games on the season, and it seems like things are really coming together for the talented team from Sunrise.
Jonathan Huberdeau has long been talented, but he’s establishing himself as one of the best players in hockey with 23 points in the team’s first 17 games. Alexander Barkov remains one of the best two-way players in the sport. Players like Patric Hornqvist and Anthony Duclair are contributing offense as well.
The underlying metrics support the Panthers hot start, as they find themselves in the top five in terms of expected goal-rate. They are in the top third of the league in terms of shot attempts and high danger chances as well.
Goaltending has been a strength for Florida, but it’s probably not from the man many expected. Chris Driedger has taken over the crease for the Panthers in recent weeks, taking the job for now from Sergei Bobrovsky. Despite Bobrovsky’s reputation and massive contract, Driedger has been the better goalie. He will start on Wednesday, bringing his +2.46 goals saved above expectation into the matchup.
On the other side, the Dallas Stars have lost six straight games. In the middle of those losses, they had to postpone four games due to the weather last week in Texas. Dallas has played just 13 games in the young season, but they’ve won just five of those games.
Consistency has been the issue with Dallas, especially from their offense. Three times this season the Stars have scored six or more goals. On the flip side, they’ve been held to one goal four times. The metrics point to Dallas being a below average offensive team, as they have the 8th worst expected goals scored per hour.
It’s been a very middling start for Dallas, as their 5-4-4 record would suggest. They’ve been dealing with a lot of interruptions, whether it was the Covid shutdown at the start of the year or this latest issue with Texas’ electrical circuits. Analytically, they profile as an average team, and despite their run in last year’s playoffs, I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.
I think Florida is better than Dallas, and they are certainly in better form right now. As the home team in this matchup, I’m willing to lay the small juice on the Panthers.
Bet: Florida ML @ -121
A bizarre season for the New York Rangers just gets weirder every day. Supposedly, the Rangers best player, forward Artemi Panarin, pissed off the wrong people.
After speaking out against Vladimir Putin in some way on social media a few weeks ago, a Russian paper coincidentally accused Panarin of assaulting a female in the past. While Panarin denies the allegations and nobody really is taking the allegations seriously, other issues that result from this have surfaced.
Panarin has taken a leave of absence from the Rangers to take care of these personal matters, and while hockey should barely be a thought on this topic, it definitely does impact the Rangers on the ice.
New York ranks 25th in the NHL in goals per game. Panarin has 18 points in 14 games on the season, and he’s one of only two Rangers who has a double digit point total on the season (Pavel Buchnevich with 12). Outside of Panarin, the Rangers offense has struggled to get anything going.
After scoring over 40 goals in last year’s shortened regular season, Mika Zibanejad has just one goal against a goaltender this season. He scored an empty net goal in the Rangers last game, so optimists will hope this gets the monkey off his back. Zibanejad will be expected to lead the Rangers offensively in Panarin’s absence.
Beyond Zibanejad, Chris Kreider has just six points on the season. First overall pick Alexis Lafreniere has just two points on the season. Former second overall pick Kaapo Kakko is on the Covid list. The list of players pulling their weight on this team offensively is short. It’s hard to see that improving without Panarin.
The Flyers will also enter this game shorthanded, but for different reasons. Travis Konecny, Jake Voracek and Scott Laughton still find themselves on the Covid list after the Flyers’ outbreak from a few weeks ago.
Captain Claude Giroux will likely return for this game, but with three regular forwards out of the line-up, a strength turns into a weakness for the Flyers. Normally, Philadelphia has three scoring lines who can hurt you in many ways. With three players out of the line-up, the Flyers now basically must ice two fourth lines. In addition, Voracek and Konecny are two of the more talented Flyers players.
With both teams missing some key players offensively, I think goals will be at a struggle in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Bet: Under 5.5 Goals @ -110
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Expert NHL Picks
Stars at Panthers - Florida ML @ -121 (Click To Bet)
Rangers at Flyers - Under 5.5 Goals @ -110 (Click To Bet)
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