Bruins vs. Panthers Game 1 prediction: NHL playoffs odds, picks, best bets for Monday

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One of the trickiest parts of putting together a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the quick turnaround between series.

The Boston Bruins won an emotional Game 7 to finish a roller-coaster series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night and now have to get right back on the horse for Game 1 of Round 2 against the Florida Panthers on Monday evening.

It’s not an ideal scenario for the Bruins to have to snap back into focus after winning Game 7 on Saturday, but they’ve got no choice and can’t have any complaints.

Boston had a 3-1 series lead and could have had ample rest if it had closed out Toronto sooner. 

Florida is a -166 favorite at FanDuel to win the curtain-raiser and the Cats are essentially the same price (-184) to win the series.

Bruins vs. Panthers Game 1 prediction

(8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The odds for this series may seem pretty drastic since these two teams were separated by just one point in the standings this season, but there are some signals that point to the gap being wider than the table suggests. 

For one, Florida is coming off a terrific gentleman’s sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1. The Panthers, as expected, were the stronger team at 5-on-5 and contained Nikita Kucherov for the majority of the series. 

The Bruins ousted the Lightning, but now have a tough matchup against Florida. NHLI via Getty Images

While the Panthers were full value for their Round 1 victory, the Bruins had to slug it out against the Leafs, who were missing William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Joseph Woll at various times in the series.

The Bruins really struggled to create anything offensively at 5-on-5 against the Leafs and relied on the heroics of Jeremy Swayman in goal, a huge special teams advantage and a moment of magic from David Pastrnak to get the job done. 

And it isn’t just recent results that is causing the betting market to side with the Panthers. Although these two teams finished neck-and-neck in the standings, there’s a lot of context that is needed. The most obvious red flag is that Florida finished with a much better goal difference. The Cats were +68 on the campaign, while the B’s finished at (a still impressive) +43.

Betting on the NHL?

Under the hood, it’s more of the same. Florida was near the top of the NHL in 5-on-5 goal difference, shot attempt share, expected goal rate and high-danger scoring chance percentage through the 82-game marathon. Boston was right there with the Cats in goal difference, but the Bruins were closer to average in everything else. 

Boston’s elite goaltending covered up some considerable cracks. 

The Bruins are a good team and can’t be taken lightly, but they’ll need to drastically improve their offensive form from last series while still winning the goaltending and special teams battles. Maybe that happens, but I think there’s value betting on Game 1 to get away from them and this series to end quickly. 

The Bet: Panthers -1.5 (+164, FanDuel); Panthers to sweep (+850)

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