The Florida Panthers (27-13-2) have leapfrogged their way to elite status in the last several weeks, winning nine of their last 10 games.
It took a sharp shooting by the New Jersey Devils on Saturday to halt the momentum despite Florida posting 15 more shots on goal. Sergei Bobrovsky struggled to track the puck and let three unanswered goals slip by before the Panthers could have anything to say about it.
Monday’s matinee tilt against the Anaheim Ducks (14-27-1) on MLK Day serves as a ripe chance for the Cats to get back into the win column with their aggressive forechecking success.
Ducks vs. Panthers prediction
(1 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Florida is relentless with forcing turnovers in the offensive zone, while the Ducks cough up an average of more than seven giveaways per game.
The Panthers have picked up right where they left off from last year’s playoff run, dominating five-on-five play and generating a second-ranked expected-goals rate.
The line consisting of Sam Reinhart, Aleksander Barkov, and Evan Rodrigues has been a key contributor to that. They have been one of the game’s most effective trios, recording 19 points in the last six games and boasting a top-12 offensive scoring ratio in the NHL.
Reinhart is one of the most polarizing players on the ice right now, sitting at No. 4 overall in expected goals and riding a six-game point streak into Monday.
This kind of talent has bolstered Florida to pepper the net with 34.1 shots a game, which ranks No. 2 overall in the league.
The Ducks break down fairly easily in defending against odd-man rushes that bite them on the scoreboard, allowing about 33 shots against, 3.43 goals, and dragging around a goal differential of minus-39
Offense isn’t exactly growing on trees either. Anaheim’s young superstar, Trevor Zegras, has regressed this year and now is out for six to eight weeks with a broken ankle. Frank Vatrano has been the only consistent point producer but has had his fair share of defensive liabilities.
Anthony Stolarz is getting the nod in the pipes for Florida on Monday.
The Cats’ backup goalie has sustained superb numbers, keeping a 1.95 goals-against average and stopping more than 93 percent of shots faced in his last five starts.
Betting on the NHL?
His ongoing career-best campaign should continue without a blemish when he gets a shot to defeat his former team at home in a game where the scales are heavily tipped in Florida’s favor.
Pick: Panthers -1.5 (-145, BetMGM)