NHL Hockey: Florida Panthers at New York Islanders

Every year the NHL gets very competitive very quickly and this year is no different. Both Conferences are a logjam of teams competing for 8 playoff spots in each. The divisional standings are no different and although this Eastern Conference matchup features teams from opposing divisions the game is important for both sides. The Panthers are finally starting to play up to expectations under new head coach Joel Quenneville. Florida lost in overtime to Washington on Thursday night but they picked up a point. They’ve won 5 of their last 8 but they’ve picked up points in 11 of 12 and that’s extremely important over the course of an 82 game season.

They’ll have their hands full with the red hot New York Islanders. The Isles lost 3 of their first four games to start the season and haven’t lost in regulation since. Their 10 game winning streak was snapped by Pittsburgh last time out as the Penguins won 4-3 in overtime. There’s a conventional wisdom that when a team has a winning streak broken it’s time to start playing against them but not sure that applies in this case. It’s a completely different dynamic to lose in 3 on 3 overtime or a shootout than in regulation. No reason to expect any type of letdown on the consistently excellent effort that New York has put out in every game this year.

The Islanders are a middle of the pack offensive team scoring a decent enough 3.07 goals per game. They’ve excelled on the defensive end, however, and lead the NHL allowing just 2.27 goals against per game. It’s the opposite dynamic from Florida who has yet to get the shutdown performance they expected from offseason free agent signing Sergei Bobrovsky. Florida has the #5 goals per game in the NHL with 3.60 but they’ve got the #25 team defense allowing 3.53 goals per contest. Florida has moved into the top 10 for power play percentage, clicking on 21.7% of man advantage opportunities. The Islanders are successful of 20% of their power plays ranking #15-T. Both teams have been solid on the kill with the Islanders negating 86% of opponent man advantage opportunities and the Panthers 85% for #9.

Sergei Bobrovsky is projected as Florida’s starter–he’s 6-2-4 this year with a bloated 3.50 goals against average and a 0.878 save percentage. The Islanders have been fortunate to receive excellent play from both Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov. Greiss is expected to get the start here and he’s been Vezina-like this year with a 6-1-0 record, a 2.00 goals against average and a 2.00 save percentage. We’ll go with the home team and their superior defense and goaltending. We’ll also go ‘Under’ as 5 of the last 6 in the series have failed to exceed the total including 4 straight on the Islanders’ home ice.


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