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Odds Taken from FanDuel Sportsbook.
42-32-8 (4th in Atlantic Division)
52-21-9 (1st in Metropolitan Division)
Matthew Tkachuk (16)
Sebastian Aho, Jordan Martinook (10)
Brandon Montour (6)
Sebastian Aho, Jesper Fast (5)
Matthew Tkachuk (11)
Jordan Martinook (7)
Matthew Tkachuk (10)
Jaccob Slavin (14)
Brandon Montour (3.75)
Shots (Per Game)
Brent Burns (3.73)
The Florida Panthers will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, for the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Very few expected the Panthers to make it this far, yet here we are.
The Panthers barely snuck into the Playoffs and faced the Boston Bruins in the First Round. Boston came out hot and had a 3-1 lead after four games. However, Florida pulled off a miraculous comeback. They won Game Five in overtime, had an easier Game Six, and won Game Seven in overtime. No one expected the Panthers to beat the best regular season team, but they pulled off the impossible. The Panthers faced the Maple Leafs in the Second Round. This was a significantly easier series. Toronto was playing in the Second Round for the first time since 2004 but was not nearly as skilled as the Bruins. Florida jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Toronto won Game Four on the ropes 2-1, but the Panthers put them away with a Game Five overtime victory. On paper, the Panthers are not nearly as good as the Hurricanes, but they have momentum, so I would not count them out.
The Panthers have been led by Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe, Brandon Montour, Aleksander Barkov, and Sam Reinhart. Tkachuk leads this group with 16 points, Verhaeghe has seven assists, Montour has six goals, Barkov has seven assists, and Reinhart also has six goals.
Sergei Bobrovsky will probably get the start in the net for the Panthers. The 34-year-old had a great Second Round and only allowed in two goals in each game.
The Hurricanes had a strong regular season and entered the Playoffs as one of the favorites. They faced the New York Islanders in the First Round. The Islanders had one of their better teams in the last handful of seasons but were not ready for Carolina. The series went six games, but it never felt that competitive. The Islanders won twice, but the Hurricanes’ defense and goaltending made life for them quite difficult. Carolina faced the New Jersey Devils in the Second Round. New Jersey was one of the best regular season teams but did not have what it took in this round. Carolina won Games One and Two by scores of 5-1 and 6-1, respectively. They were destroyed 8-4 in Game Three but returned with a 6-1 win in Game Four. Game Five was more difficult, but they pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory. The Hurricanes have been dominant throughout the Playoffs and are not only my pick to win the series, but they are also my pick to win the Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes have been led by Sebastian Aho, Jordan Martinook, Seth Jarvis, and Brent Burns in the Playoffs. Aho and Martinook have ten points each, and Jarvis and Burns have eight points. It is also worth noting that Burns is playing nearly 24 minutes a game and has been huge on the defensive end.
Frederik Andersen will likely get the start in the net for the Hurricanes. Andersen has been an animal in the Playoffs and only allows 1.80 goals per game. He held the Devils to only three goals in the final two games of their Second Round series.
The Hurricanes have only lost once at home in this series, so I expect them to win this game with their crowd behind them.
The Panthers are the underdogs but can win with strong goaltending and defense.
The Panthers’ offense was not great in the Second Round. However, the Hurricanes’ offense was unstoppable. The Panthers need to slow down Carolina and can do so with strong goaltending.
The Panthers can also slow down the Hurricanes’ offense with tough defense. They must come out aggressive and limit the Hurricanes’ shots. That will be the key to victory.
The Hurricanes are the favorites but will only win if they draw penalties and win faceoffs.
The Hurricanes’ power play unit has been nonexistent in the Playoffs. They are converting less than 19% of their opportunities. This must change in this round. Carolina must start drawing penalties and scoring goals with a man advantage.
The Hurricanes struggled in the faceoff circle in their last game against the Devils. Carolina only won 32 of 80 faceoff opportunities. That will not cut it in this series. Carolina must win the majority of their faceoffs.
Matthew Tkachuk is the obvious choice. He leads the team in points (16) and assists (11). Tkachuk must be the one to get the Panthers’ offense going in this game.
Jordan Martinook was pretty quiet during the season but was all over the place in the Second Round. The wingers must take his momentum and bring it into this series.
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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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