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Odds Taken from FanDuel Sportsbook
27-24-6 (4th in Atlantic Division)
28-22-6 (5th in Metropolitan Division)
Matthew Tkachuk (75)
Alex Ovechkin (54)
Carter Verhaeghe (29)
Alex Ovechkin (32)
Matthew Tkachuk (48)
Evgeny Kuznetsov (36)
Matthe Tkachuk (15)
Erik Gustafsson (10)
Matthew Tkachuk (3.91)
Shots (Per Game)
Alex Ovechkin (4.20)
The Florida Panthers will travel north to face the Washington Capitals for the second time this season. These teams faced each other in mid-November, and the Panthers won 5-2 behind two Carter Verhaege goals.
These teams are in nearly the same position. The Panthers have 60 points in 56 games. They are two points outside of the Wild Card race. On the other side, the Capitals have 62 points in 55 games. If they win, they maintain their position, but if they lose, they can fall one or two spots.
The Panthers had an excellent regular season last year but have been unable to replicate that success this season.
Regardless, they are still very much in the Playoff race. Their offense is fantastic and averages nearly 3.5 games. With that being said, their defense could use some improvement. Florida allows a troubling 3.44 goals per game, putting them in the bottom ten of the NHL. In addition, they need better goaltenders. It is hard to read this Panthers team because of their strengths and weaknesses, but they can make a run if they make some trades before the deadline.
The Panthers are led by Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Montour, and Sam Reinhart. Tkachuk leads this group with 75 points, but the other four all have at least 43 or more. Florida is very hard to beat if all these players are performing at a high level.
Sergei Bobrovsky is the starting netminder in Florida. However, he is not playing up to his potential. He was once a top-five goalie but now allows over three goals a game. He must improve in the back half of the season.
The Capitals are in a different situation than the Panthers. Their offense is very mediocre and barely scores above three goals a game.
This is largely because of how few goal-scorers they have. Alex Ovechkin has 32 goals, but he is their only proven scorer.
No other Capital has 15 or more goals. Although their offense needs some work, their defense and goaltending have stepped up to the task. Washington allows less than 2.9 goals per game, and their #1 goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, has been quite consistent this year.
The Capitals will play this game without Alex Ovechkin but will still have Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dylan Strome, and a few other key pieces. If they all do a little more than expected, they might be able to make up for Ovechkin’s absence.
Darcy Kuemper is having a solid first year in Washington. He is not a top-ten goalie, but he is consistent. Kuemper has five shutouts (tied for the most in the NHL), and a .915 save percentage.
The Capitals will be without Alex Ovechkin and have lost their previous two games, so I would bet on the Panthers.
The Panthers are the favorites but will only emerge victorious if they draw penalties and do not become complacent.
The Panthers have an average power-play unit but a better one than the Capitals. They score on over 22% of their opportunities, and over 22% of their goals have come with a man advantage. This unit needs to get on the ice and score at least once this game.
The Panthers are facing a Capitals team without Alex Ovechkin. However, that does not mean they can become complacent. Florida has to treat this game as if Ovechkin is playing. If they do, they will leave Washington with a victory.
The Capitals are the underdogs but can win if they score the first goal and slow down Matthew Tkachuk.
The Capitals will lose a lot with the absence of Alex Ovechkin. However, that does not mean they will lose the game. They can still give themselves a chance if they score the first goal. They failed to score the first goal in their last two games and lost, and it would change the narrative if they struck first this game.
Matthew Tkachuk is the most well-rounded player on the Panthers. The Capitals’ defensemen must make him priority #1. If they do, they will have a chance.
Matthew Tkachuk is the best player on the Panthers. Not only do his 75 points lead his team, but they are the fourth-most in the NHL. In addition, his 48 assists are the fifth-most in the league.
Tkachuk does not need to change anything in this game. He only needs to look for his shot and set up his teammates when necessary.
Evgeny Kuznetsov will be the most efficient player on the ice in this game. He will be playing without Alex Ovechkin, so much of the offensive bearing will fall on him. This is concerning because Kuznetsov is not much of a goal scorer this season, but he is a veteran and knows how to step up when it matters most.
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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