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Of this much we can assure you - Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice is not going to have a lot of trouble keeping up hope for his team in the Stanley Cup finals, not after they came back from 3-1 to beat the record-setting Boston Bruins and outclassed the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes.
But we can assure BetOnline patrons of this as well - if the Panthers are not going to get miraculous goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky, they are going to need Matthew Tkachuk to have a very special outing if they are going to win Game 2 and / or win the series.
They did not get that in the series opener.
In the metric category of "Win Probability Added," compiled by one analytics site, Tkachuk had the highest number of any non-goalie coming into this series. And it wasn't even close, as he was at 4.78, compared to the "second place" guy, teammate Carter Verhaege (2.89). We don't know how they compile it, but we can come to the conclusion that Tkachuk was playing better than anybody.
And he did some serious stuff in the four-game sweep of Carolina, as he scored the winning goal in three of the four games, two of which came in overtime.
With 109 points, he is by far the biggest point producer in the Florida lineup, so for him to be stymied would leave a tremendous hole in the Panthers' lineup, and they don't have offense distributed as evenly as Vegas does.
Well, suffice it to say that Tkachuk, the son of former NHL player Keith Tkachuk, not only did not carry the load, he became something of a liability. Naturally he has to be forgiven, because of all he's done for this team in his first year on board (following the trade from Calgary). But it is hard to imagine this club hoisting the Stanley Cup without him being a major player.
Vegas is favored in Game 2, in the Stanley Cup betting odds that have been posted by the folks at BetOnline:
Vegas Golden Knights -131
Florida Panthers +119
Over 5.5 Goals -121
Under 5.5 Goals +101
And on the puck line . . .
Panthers +1.5 Goals (-225)
Knights -1.5 Goals (+195)
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Tkachuk is one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player), which shows you how highly he is thought of. He's got nine goals and 12 assists in the playoffs, and in 14 games, the Panthers were at +9 in goals scored with him on the ice, coming into the finals.
In Game 1, he came away with no goals, no assists, and only two shots on goal, as the Golden Knights bottled him up pretty good. He almost had a great moment, as he passed the puck to Nick Cousins for a wide open shot at the Vegas goal, only to see Adin Hill make a miraculous save.
In the third period he committed a turnover that led to a goal by Mark Stone. Then, with 4:24 remaining, he got called for roughing (4 min.), threw a punch at Sam Bennett, and got a ten-minute misconduct, which rendered him useless for the remainder of the contest.
So it wasn't pleasant.
Okay, let's take a look at a couple of props for his Game 2 play as they are presented at Prop Builder:
Over 1.5 Points -141
Under 1.5 Points -186
Over 3.5 Shots +100
Under 3.5 Shots -130
Well, a couple of things about this:
On only four occasions (or rather, four stretches) this season has Tkachuk been held without a point in multiple consecutive games. For the uninitiated, "points" are goals or assists.
And in 48 games, Tkachuk has had more than 3.5 shots on goal. Sure that sounds like a lot, but it's about half the games he has played. With that, the even money prop on the "over" looks good to us.
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