National Hockey League action on Thursday evening and we will see the Metro Division square off with the Atlantic Division as the Pittsburgh Penguins grapple with the Florida Panthers at BB&T Arena in Sunrise, Florida.
Pens Get Off To A Fast StartThe Pittsburgh Penguins had another solid season last year as they finished tied with the Capitals for first place in the East Division. The season came to a screeching halt when they lost to the Islanders in six games in the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh has high hopes of another run this year and they got off to a good start by beating Tampa Bay on the road 6-2. Now they will look to complete the Florida two-step with a win over a solid Panthers team. Pittsburgh was 2nd in the league in scoring last year and it looks like the offense will be strong again, but we do have to note that three of the goals they scored were empty-netters. Six different players scored for the Pens in the win, but none were by Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Evgeni Malkin, who are all currently out with injuries or illness.
What do Jake Guentzel, Teddy Blueger, and Mark Friedman have in common?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 13, 2021
They all met with the media after today's practice. Hear what they had to say ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/F2ToN7y1JP
The Pens ranked 14th in the league in gpg allowed last year, but it was the play in the crease that cost them against an Islanders team that struggled to score all year. Tristan Jarry was 25-12 with a 2.75 GAA during the regular season, but 2-4 with a 3.18 GAA in the playoff series against the Islanders. They need the regular season of Jarry if Pittsburgh wants to go far in the postseason this year. Jarry got the start against the Lightning and he stopped 26 of the 28 shots that he faced. He is 1-1 with a 3.66 GAA in three career games against the Panthers.
Panthers Looking To Take The Next StepThe Florida Panthers finished 2nd in the Central Division last year, but just like the Penguins, they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs. It was the first time that Florida made the postseason since 2015/16. This year, they are armed with a dangerous offense and an improved defense and are looking to take the next step. On offense, they have Aleksander Barkov (26 goals) and Jonathan Huberdeau (61 points) to lead the team, plus have now added Sam Reinhart, who scored at least 22 goals in each of his last four seasons for the Buffalo Sabres. He had 25 goals last year. Florida finished 4th in the league in scoring last year and they could finish even higher this year.
🎥 GM Bill Zito spoke with the media today ahead of our home opener on Thursday, touching on the excitement for the season both in and outside of the locker room. pic.twitter.com/C8mCQyABNm— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) October 13, 2021
The Panthers were 10th in the league in gpg allowed last year at 2.70, but in the playoff series against the Lightning, they allowed 4.00 gpg. Florida lost goalie Chris Driedger to the Kraken in the expansion draft but they still have Sergei Bobrovsky (19-9, 2.91 GAA) and Spence Knight (4-0, 2.32 GAA). Bobrovsky is expected to start in this game but it could be just a matter of time before Knight takes over the number one job. In the postseason last year, Bobrovsky was 1-2 with a 5.33 GAA. He is 13-14 with a 2.83 GAA in his career against the Penguins. On defense, they have back Aaron Ekblad, who is returning from a broken leg, and MacKenzie Weegar, who had a breakout season a year ago. Do not sleep on the panthers this year.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Penguins had a huge road win over Tampa Bay as a massive underdog, but I do not see them completing the sweep in the Sunshine State. The Florida Panthers have a very solid team on their hands and their offense could end up being the best in the league by season's end. Getting back Aaron Ekblad will help on defense and Pittsburg is still missing its top three offensive players for this one. Yes, the Pens put up six goals on Tampa Bay, but three of them were empty-netters. Pittsburgh has the advantage of already playing a game, but it will not matter to a Florida team that is eager for a big start, after losing in the first round of the playoffs last year. Lastly, the Panthers are 32-14 in the last 46 games in this series and the home team is 13-5 in the last 18.
Full-Game Total Pick
Florida has the edge on offense and they will get their fair share of goals, but they will not go crazy. Pittsburgh scored just three regular goals against the Lightning and they are missing their three best offensive players. Florida has an improved defense this year and Bobrovsky has a decent 2.83 GAA against the Penguins. The Pittsburgh defense was solid against a strong Tampa Bay offense and Tristan Jarry did have a very nice 2.75 GAA during the regular season a year ago. The bottom line here is that I do not expect the Penguins to contribute enough offense for this game to go Over the total. Lastly, the Under is 21-10-3 in Pittsburgh's last 34 vs. the Atlantic and 6-0 in the last six games between these teams.