Anybody making NHL picks in the postseason knows better than to count out the Florida Panthers. There was a time when it looked like the Panthers, a year removed from winning the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the NHL, might miss the playoffs.
After taking out the teams with the first-, second- and fourth-most points in the Eastern Conference, Florida was on its way to the franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
When looking at the NHL predictions, teams that lost the first two games in the Stanley Cup Final do not have a great track record and that is what is on the line when the series shifts to Florida for Game 3.
When looking at the NHL news, Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas, who leads all players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 81 hits, and forward Eetu Luostarinen missed Wednesday’s practice. Florida is relying on goalie Adin Hill with Laurent Brossoit, Robin Lehner and Logan Thompson continuing to be sidelined.
According to the sportsbook, Hill is tied for second in the Conn Smythe odds despite not getting between the pipes until the second game of the second-round series.
According to the NHL playoff odds, the Panthers are priced at -120 to take care of business on home ice. Still the Golden Knights have +225 odds to win the series in five games and +300 to complete a four-game sweep compared to a +1200 moneyline for the Panthers to win the series in six games and +650 to take the title in a winner-take-all Game 7.
Panthers Face Uphill Battle
Each of the last five times that a team won the first two games in the Stanley Cup Final, that team has won the NHL title.
The last time a team rebounded to win the championship after dropping Games 1 and 2 came 12 years ago, when the Boston Bruins accomplished the feat after winning Game 7 on the road against the Vancouver Canucks.
Need more of a history lesson?
Beginning in 1972, when the Bruins won their second Stanley Cup title in three years, the last 30 times that a team took a 2-0 lead in the series, they have skated around the ice with Lord Stanley’s cup 28 times at series’ end.
It happened both in 2021 and 2022 with Tampa Bay winning in five games and Colorado needing six games to deny the Lightning another NHL title.
How important is Game 3? The last 14 times a team went up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, the series ended in a four-game sweep.
Time to Answer Back
A key in the upset of the record-breaking Boston Bruins in the first round was the ability for Florida to stay within striking range.
Boston scored the first two goals in two of its three wins as the Bruins took a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
In the pivotal Game 6, the Panthers needed 3:28 and 27 seconds to answer when the Bruins took a one-goal lead.
In Game 7, the Panthers prevented the Bruins from building on a one-goal lead in the third period. Defenseman Brandon Montour tied the game with 60 seconds left in the third period and Carter Verhaeghe scored the series-clinching goal in overtime.
Against Carolina, the Hurricanes scored the first goal in each of the first two games and the Panthers avoided going down by two goals.
It has been a different story against Vegas. Three goals in the third period, including an empty-net tally from former Panthers winger Reilly Smith, gave the Golden Knights the series lead.
In Game 2, the Golden Knights scored the game’s first four goals to chase goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was listed by the NHL betting lines as one of the front-runners in the Conn Smythe Award odds coming into the Stanley Cup Final.
Florida has been a master of finding ways of winning one-goal games in the postseason with a 9-1 record and a 6-0 mark in overtime.
There hasn’t been a chance for any late-game heroics so far in the series against the Golden Knights.
Stay Out of the Sin Bin
It is a tough balancing act for the Florida Panthers as the physical style of play is why they have made it this far.
However, having key players serving 10-minute misconduct penalties makes it hard to stay with the Golden Knights.
1️⃣ Penalties and power plays
2️⃣ A Hill to climb
3️⃣ Lundell’s quick strike
4️⃣ Off the rush
5️⃣ Update on Gudas@JamesonCoop‘s 5 Takeaways from Game 2. 📝
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) June 6, 2023
Leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk has spent more time serving penalties in the first two games of the series than he has been on ice.
That can’t happen again in Game 3 as this is a time when the best players for the Panthers need to be the team’s best players.
Keep an eye on Tkachuk and his ability to stay on the ice when considering NHL live betting odds.