NHL Playoffs - Game 1
Washington +224 over Florida

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Posted at 2:45 PM EST.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal

Game 1

Washington +224 over Florida

7:30 PM EST. The Panthers are the new cool kid on the block. We’ve yet to see a postseason prognostication that does not include Florida making tidy work of the Capitals in Round 1. Maybe we’re missing something, but has there been a shakier #1 seed than the Panthers in recent memory? Sure, the Cats won the President’s Trophy, racking up the most points in the league, but if you watched them play, it did not come easy. Much too frequently, the Panthers were down one, two or three goals. They did not come by nicknames like the “Comeback Cats” and the “Heart Attack Cats” without earning it.

Let us set aside the regular season for a moment and all that comes with the pressure of being the best team in the league and focus on the Panthers’ recent playoff form. Specifically last season. We couldn’t care less that Florida has not won a playoff series since its Stanley Cup run in 1996. That is the longest run of such failure currently in the NHL, but again, those ghosts of the Panthers’ playoffs past matter not. Unless that rat Scott Mellanby smacked against the dressing room wall back in the day was some kind of wizard, then the Cats might be totally screwed.

What does matter is that the Panthers once again have home-ice advantage, much like they did against the Lightning last year. Now there is no shame in losing to the eventual Cup champions, but don’t tell that to the Cats, who are totes not thinking about last year, you guys. Captain Aleksander Barkov stated, "I don't think we really think about that anymore, we thought about it when we lost, for two months, the whole summer, whatever. You think about it, you learn from it, and you move on. We had a good regular season. And now the regular season is over." That definitely sounds like a leader who is over the recent professional failure of his team. Here’s the thing, the Panthers had zero expectations last year or the year before or the year before, or ever. Furthermore, they have not improved in the only place they lacked quality, which is between the pipes.

We’ve ripped Sergei Bobrovsky for years and we’ll state for the 10-thousandth time that the only reason Bob’s getting the nod in Game 1 is because of his $10-million cap hit. That’s just over 12% of the team’s total salary. That horrible 7-year/$70-million deal has four full seasons left on it by the way. If you remember, the Panthers played musical chairs with their goalies against Tampa last year and had “Beer League” Chris Driedger backing up Bobrovsky. Whatever happened to that guy anyway? Is he back playing in the Boston Pizza house league in beautiful Selkirk, Manitoba? We have many great readers in the greater Winnipeg area, so please, shout us out to Driedger if you see him around town.

Much like Mike Smith for the Oilers or Marc-Andre Fleury in Minnesota, we see Bobrovsky’s starting Game 1 as a no-win situation. Everyone knows that the future is Spencer Knight, at least they think he is and he can’t get the time he needs because of the dead $10-million weight in front of him. Knight may get his look in this series, but time will tell and if he does, it means the Panthers are in trouble. Florida’s defense is below replacement level too.

We haven’t said much about the Capitals and that’s okay, as this is not likely the last time we’re going to be backing them in this series. We will offer this, there isn’t anything this group or coach Pierre Laviolette has not seen. He hasn’t named a starter and you know what? Between Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek, Laviolette could flip a coin and we’d be satisfied.

This wager and those that are likely to follow have little to do with Washington and everything to do with the shaky Cats. If you’re looking for a cherry on top of what could quickly become a shit sundae for the Panthers in Sunrise, the Capitals owned the regular season’s best road record (25-10-6) and they played the Panthers tough in all three meetings this season going 1-1-1, with only a goal separating the two teams in each contest.

This price tonight and the ones that are going to follow do not represent how good of a chance the Caps have to knock out the Panthers. For the first time in their history, Florida will carry the weight of expectations into the playoffs. Also for the first time in over two decades, the Caps are a massive underdog. You don’t think all those players on Washington are extra jacked up to prove the disrespect is not warranted. The Panthers were playing with fire frequently during the regular season by playing catch-up, thus, if they fall behind by two or three goals against this team, they aren’t likely to come back. There is a price to pay for weak defense, weak goaltending, high expectations for the first time and playing a very disrespected team. Washington has overpaid their dues and are playing with house money. That’s not a bad place to start.

Our Pick

Washington +224 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 4.48)

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