Saturday evening, the Florida Panthers beat their in-state rival from Tampa Bay and leapfrogged the Lightning in the standings, and now hold down the second spot in the Central division. Monday, the Panthers will host the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
Florida has won eight of their last 12 games and trails the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes by only one point.
The Blue Jackets are heading in the exact opposite direction. Winners of only two games in their last 14 starts, Columbus has lost five consecutive games and is out of the playoff conversation. The NHL odds have the Blue Jackets listed at a moneyline of +185 while the Panthers are at -225, with the over/under at 5½ goals favoring the over slightly.
Season Series to Date
So far this year, the Panthers have won five of the six contests these teams have played against each other.
The last time they faced each other, the Panthers swept a two-game series in Florida, winning 5-2 and 3-0.
From an over/under perspective, four of the six games played have seen a goal total of at least six goals or more.
Columbus Offense Offensive this Year
If you are a fan of NHL hockey, then you are probably aware the Columbus Blue Jackets struggle to score goals. Only Oliver Bjorkstrand has managed to get to the 30 point plateau at this point of the season.
Two of the top five points leaders on the Jackets are defencemen, and one of them (Zach Werenski) played his last game on April 8th.
Columbus made headlines earlier in the season when they traded the disgruntled Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg for the point-producing Patrik Laine. Since he arrived in Columbus, Laine has an underwhelming 17 points in 36 games and is a -20.
For the season, the Blue Jackets are scoring only 2.43 goals per game while giving up a disappointing 3.28 goals per game. Their powerplay is an embarrassing 13.7%, and they have a -40 goal differential.
Panthers Have Two-Headed Goalie Monster
The Florida Panthers have a luxury a lot of teams in the NHL would be envious of. They have two goalies very capable of being the team’s number one starter, and they have ridden their netminding duo to an impressive 28-12-5 record to date.
Former Blue Jacket Sergei Bobrovsky is 16-7-2 this year. His partner between the pipes, Chris Driedger, is 12-5-3. Statistically, it is Driedger who has the more impressive numbers. Driedger has a 2.09 goals-against average, and a sparkling .927 save percentage.
Each goalie has played five of the team’s last 10 games, and Florida appears willing to ride the season out with no clear number one option.
Offensively, where the Jackets have one player over 30 points this year, the Panthers have four, including Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, who each have 45 points to date.
For the season, the Panthers are averaging 3.16 goals per game, they allow 2.69 goals per game, their powerplay has a 21.9% success rate, and they have a +20 goal differential.
What to Look for Monday Night
Like most other hockey fans, I like the Panthers to win this game tonight, but at -240, I don’t see a lot of value playing that number. When making your NHL bet, I like the Panthers -120 to score more than 3½ goals tonight against the struggling Blue Jackets.
Pick: Florida Panthers’ Team Total Over 3½ (-120)