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NHL Betting Preview (Mar 30): Panthers vs Maple Leafs Odds

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Nicholas Martin
8 days ago
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are just around the corner as we hit the month of April, and you can feel the level of urgency picking up around the league as a result.
What better way for Sheldon Keefe and the Leafs to fine tune their process than a date versus the Florida Panthers, who ended their run last spring and are their most likely Round One opponent.
I’ll outline the relevant game notes below, as well as hand out my best bet.

Panthers vs Maple Leafs Odds

  • Panthers Moneyline Odds: -128
  • Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds: +115
  • Puck Line Odds: Panthers -1.5 (+182), Maple Leafs +1.5 (-227)
  • Game Total: 6.5 goals (over +100, under -122)
Florida Panthers
The Panthers have fallen into a lesser run of play of late, as they held a record of just 7-6-1 in the month of March. Their underlying results also tailed off considerably in that span, as they played to an expected goals share of only 51.49%.
Still, we probably aren’t at the point where it is logical to lower the power-rating of Paul Maurice’s crew much, if at all. Every team is going to have some drop-offs in form, and they played much of the last month without Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, among others.
Suddenly the Panthers enter the final three weeks of the season with a completely IR, as they look to push the Bruins off of the top spot in the division.
Forwards
Carter Verhaeghe – Aleksander Barkov – Sam Reinhart
Evan Rodrigues – Sam Bennett – Matthew Tkachuk
Eetu Luostarinen – Anton Lundell – Vladimir Tarasenko
Jonah Gadjovich – Kevin Stanlund – Ryan Lomberg
Here is how the Panthers lines looked at today’s morning skate. There is no doubting that they are offering a cup contending offensive core, and it will be interesting to see if they can bounce-back offensively in the final three weeks prior to the playoffs.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been confirmed as the Panthers starting goaltender. He has played to a .914 save % and 2.40 GAA this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Over the last two months of play Toronto owns a slightly better record than the Panthers at 17-8-1. Even still, the  consensus among average NHL fans as well as oddsmakers is that the Leafs aren’t in the same tier as the Panthers at this point. A win here would have the Leafs just four points back of the Panthers with a game in hand, so you could argue the game has some importance if you believe Toronto would hold a notable home ice advantage in Round One.
While nobody is going to give a damn what the Leafs do prior to the start of the playoffs, they have shown a sharp team game in all areas of the ice for a fairly large sample. Their 52.92 expected goal percentage in March ranked ninth in the league, and that included many contests without Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly.
Having eight useable NHL defensemen is proving to be an asset for Keefe right now, even if perhaps adding a few more big names would have been the dream in terms of the big picture. The Leafs can offer a fairly competitive unit despite the fact that Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren, and Ilya Lyubushkin are all injured.
Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly both took morning skate today, and appear close to returning.
It will be interesting to see how Sheldon Keefe configures to the top-six when Marner returns, as he current units have found some success.
John Tavares finished the month of March fourth in points per 60 minutes of play among all NHL’ers. He, Bobby McMann and William Nylander have played to a 56.5% expected goal share at even strength, and generated 3.37 xGF/60.
Ilya Samsonov has been confirmed as the Leafs starter in this matchup. He has played to an .893 save % and 3.03 GAA in 35 appearances this season, but has continued to improve those marks since returning to the lineup.
Best Bets For Panthers versus Leafs:
The prices on sides in this matchup look sharp to me. The Panthers should trend into better form in April playing at full health, but I don’t view -128 as the right number to bet on that considering how well the Leafs have played of late despite their absences.
The totals look relatively fair as well, though I would certainly lean to the under given the fact that this game should feature playoff type game play.
The one bet that did stick out to me was backing Nylander to record over 3.5 shots on goal at -115. That price is shorter than it has typically been because of the quality of defensive play that Florida offers, but I don’t view this as a lesser spot for Nylander. This game script could often call for extra minutes for Nylander and the second line, and he has quietly stepped up in the big moments more than many people credit.
It also wouldn’t surprise me to see a highly penalized Panthers squad look to make this game a little nasty, which will ideally lead to more powerplay minutes than usual for Nylander.
Anything better than -120 is worthy of a bet on Nylander to record over 3.5 shots on goal.
Best Bet: Nylander Over 3.5 Shots on Goal -115

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