It is hard to put too much stock in October games, but the Wednesday night tilt between the visiting Boston Bruins and undefeated Florida Panthers is shaping up to be a good one and should have the attention for those who bet sports online.
There are so many individual matchups to mention. Why not start with elite defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Charlie McAvoy. Ekblad hasn’t missed a beat recovering from an injury that limited him to 35 games for Florida during the 2021-21 season. Ekblad already has three goals and three assists.
Boston’s McAvoy doesn’t have the offensive numbers — yet. There are no issues with his play on the other end of the ice. He continues to handle the pressure of being the Bruins No. 1 defenseman, a role handled by legendary defensemen Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and, most recently, Zdeno Chara.
The NHL odds listed the Bruins (+1400) only behind two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay and Carolina among Eastern Conference teams in the preseason Stanley Cup picks.
Wednesday’s game is at 7 p.m. ET on NHL Network.
More to Bruins Than One Line
It’s impossible not to think of the “Perfection Line” of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak when discussing the Boston Bruins. The trio is certainly doing their part and then some in the early part of the season. Marchand leads the Bruins with four goals and seven points while his linemates have eight points between them.
A big key for Boston has been the play of Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle. DeBrusk, a notoriously slow starter who is coming off a subpar season, has scored twice while Coyle has looked comfortable centering the second line after the departure of reliable veteran David Krejci.
“He seems to have that extra step in his game this year, which is great to see,” Marchand said about DeBrusk after the San Jose game. “He’s such a dangerous player when he’s moving his feet and attacking the way he is and getting in on forechecks and turning pucks over. He’s a dangerous player and can make something out of nothing like he did on that goal there. It’s great to see he’s continuing his good play and bouncing back this year.”
Newcomers Derek Forbort, Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek are among the top nine Bruins in terms of shorthanded time on ice per game. Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark give Boston the two reliable goalies that the team seemingly always have.
There are some injury concerns with Nick Foligno on injured reserve and Craig Smith questionable for Wednesday’s game.
Undefeated Panthers No Surprise
Years of early draft picks have given the Panthers players like Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to build around. Younger veterans, including Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe, joined the Panthers at various points last season. Add in Anton Lundell, who is looking like one of the best rookies, and the Panthers are loaded although Lundell did miss Monday’s game against Arizona due to injury.
Speaking of injuries, a left leg injury curtailed a season that could have ended with Ekblad being a leading contender for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL in 2020-21. Missing the playoffs was the bigger blow than any individual accolades for Ekblad, a former No. 1 overall pick.
“Sitting around and watching is not something I’ve ever done in my career,” Ekblad told the media. “I’ve never had a major injury like this, so it was different for me and it wasn’t fun by any means. It was a long road to recovery. But seeing it from a different perspective and watching the game, maybe I learned some things. Ultimately, it is what it is, and it happened and it’s over and it’s a new year and hopefully, we can repeat some of that success and bring it further.”
The Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes are the last two undefeated teams in the Eastern Conference. Florida led the NHL with 27 goals scored after Monday’s games. The only concerns early on have been inconsistent work on faceoffs and mediocre results on special teams.
On to the Pick
There’s very little to separate the Bruins and Panthers. Each team went 5-4-1 over the last 10 meetings and scored 3.1 goals per game in that span. Boston has slightly better numbers on the power play and penalty kill.
The NHL scores and odds list the Bruins as an underdog (+115) for the first time this season but the host Panthers are 5-0 as a favorite.
We’re going with the Panthers to have enough offensive punch to cover yet again as a favorite.