Be honest, BetOnline customers: is there any way in the world you'd have expected the Florida Panthers to be on the verge of a four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes? Florida just barely go into the playoffs, sneaking into the eighth slot in the East on the final day of the regular season. Yet here they are, ready to advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1996, representing a major coup for owner Vinnie Viola and general manager Bill Zito, who were so disappointed a couple of years ago when the Panthers won the President's Cup with the league's best record, then were swept by Tampa Bay in the playoffs.
Riding a hot streak on the part of $10 million-per-year goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and getting winning overtime goals in the first two games from Matthew Tkachuk, the Panthers have largely kept Carolina off the scoreboard, as they have only three goals in three games. So offense has to be on the minds of the Hurricanes, as there is no tomorrow to worry about if they don't get past today.
We have not really gotten a final word about who Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour will put in goal for Game 4. He went with Antti Raanta in place of Frederik Andersen in Game 3, and allowed just a single goal. Of course, he was not exactly under constant siege, facing 17 shots on goal. Andersen has been outstanding for the 'Canes, with a 5-1 record and a 1.65 goals-against average, with a .936 save percentage in seven postseason games thus far.
In the NHL betting odds for this Stanley Cup playoff game, which is scheduled for 8:05 PM ET, the Panthers are the slight favorites:
Florida Panthers -107
Carolina Hurricanes -103
Over 5.5 Goals +102
Under 5.5 Goals -113
And on the puck line....
Hurricanes +1.5 Goals -275
Panthers -1.5 Goals +230
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Carolina has, for the most part, outplayed the Panthers. They had 50 shot attempts, compared to just 20 for Florida, in Game 2, and on an overall basis they have had an edge in shots on goal by a margin of 135-103. In the first period of that Game 2 loss, they had 17 of the first 18 shots on goal, which was phenomenal. And the 'Canes were aggressive enough on one of their penalty killing attempts that they outshot the Panthers 6-0 during that stretch in which they were short-handed.
All of this tells you why Brind'Amour isn't all that upset about the way his team is playing; he just figures they have to put the puck in the net. At the same time, there's the rub. Those numbers also give you an insight as to how super-human Bobrovsky has been in the series. The guy has stopped 132 of the 135 shots that have come his way, giving him a save percentage of .978.
The four-overtime classic in Game 2 was the sixth longest NHL contest on record, and the custom with Bobrovsky in the past is that he'd need to take some rest in the next game, even if there was a day off in between. But coach Paul Maurice, who began this postseason with Alex Lyon between the pipes, doesn't want to switch back now. And all the two-time Vezina Trophy winner did on Monday was pitch a shutout.
In the history of the NHL, only four times in 204 has a team lost the first three games of a playoff series and then come back and won four straight. So that is not a likely result in the end. But could the dam break enough to allow the 'Canes to keep this series going? That's possible. But will the floodgates open enough to make this an offensive donnybrook? We're thinking a hard "no" on that one and that's why we're on the UNDER.
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