NHL Hockey Betting: New York Islanders at Florida Panthers

NHL Hockey Betting:  New York Islanders at Florida Panthers

The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs continue on Thursday night as the New York Islanders travel South to take on the Florida Panthers in the first game of their best of seven opening round series. The Panthers were the surprise winner of the Atlantic Division while the Islanders took the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida was in a tight battle with Tampa Bay and Boston for much of the second half of the season but the Bruins faded badly down the stretch and failed to make the playoffs. Eventually, the Panthers won the division with a 6 point advantage over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Florida finished 47-26-9 and won 7 of their last 10 regular season games.

The Islanders fell into the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference after the Pittsburgh Penguins went on their torrid run to finish the season and grab the second spot in the Metropolitan Division. That pushed the Islanders down to fourth though they were just one point back of the third place finishing New York Rangers. The Islanders are a tough team to figure out. They have an excellent penalty kill (#4 in the NHL) but that was their only top ten statistical performance. They have the #11 goals per game, #13 goals against and #17 power play percentage. Florida is a very well balanced team at even strength but the struggle on special teams. The Panthers are a top ten goals scored per game team (#8) and goals against (#7) but are just #23 on the power play and #24 on the penalty kill.

Goaltending is definitely a Panthers’ advantage–they have veteran Roberto Luongo in net who came over to Florida after a long run in Vancouver. Islanders’ Thomas Greiss is a solid netminder and has done a decent job filling in for the injured Jonas Hiller but he’s a cut below Luongo. Overall, just don’t see the necessary intensity out of this Islanders team that a team needs for a long run in the playoffs. Florida, meanwhile, has looked exited to play hockey all season long. They’re still not getting the respect they deserve. Look for the Panthers to win Game One and take this series in six games.