NHL Series Betting Preview: Panthers vs. Bruins Prediction

Florida Panthers right wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) tips the puck at Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark (35) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers on April 6, 2024, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers will meet in a rematch from last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida won the series in seven games in 2023 after the Bruins took a 3-1 series lead. The Bruins went 4-0 against the Panthers in the regular season.

Handicapping the Florida Panthers

Florida and Boston battled for first place in the Atlantic Division all season long but the Panthers came out on top in that race. Florida then made easy work out of Tampa Bay, defeating the Lightning in five games. As a result, the Panthers now have the best Stanley Cup odds (+475 at NorthStar Bets) of any Eastern Conference team.

This team is stacked. Matthew Tkachuk is a former 40-goal scorer, as is Carter Verhaeghe, and Sam Reinhart is coming off a 57-goal season. Also, captain Aleksander Barkov is just two years removed from scoring 39 goals in 67 games and he scored at a 90-point pace this season. However, it’s his defensive play that has got him the most recognition, and that trickled down. Led by Barkov, Florida was one of the best defensive teams in the league during the regular season.

According to Evolving Hockey, the Panthers ranked second in shot attempts against and fifth in expected goals against (per 60 minutes) at 5-on-5. Only one team allowed fewer (5-on-5) goals per 60 minutes than the Panthers did, too, despite the fact that they’re two top defenceman (Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour) played 51 and 63 games, respectively. Of course, it also helped that Sergei Bobrovsky picked up right where he left off in last year’s playoffs.

Statistically, backup Anthony Stolarz was better in categories like save percentage and goals above expected, but he doesn’t have playoff experience. In fact, Stolarz has never played in the postseason. Bobrovsky had a solid season, posting a .913 save percentage. Per Evolving Hockey’s expected goals model, Bobrovsky allowed 16 fewer goals than an average goaltender would have allowed had they faced the same shots. Bobrovsky held the Lightning to three or fewer goals in four out of five games and he is 16-7 straight-up in the playoffs since 2023.

Florida is also great on special teams, on top of being one of the toughest teams to play against at even strength. In the regular season, the Panthers had the eighth-best power play, and the sixth-best penalty kill. They had a tough special teams matchup in the opening round, too, as the Lightning were also a top-10 team on the power play and penalty kill, but Florida still managed to find success. The Panthers finished the series with an 80% success rate on the kill, while going 3-for-13 (23.08%) with the man advantage.

Florida Panthers Stanley Cup Winner


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Handicapping the Boston Bruins

For the second year in a row, the Bruins squandered a 3-1 series lead in the first round. Unlike last year, though, the Bruins won Game 7 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs and avoided disaster. However, the consensus opinion seems to be that the Bruins will be no match for the Panthers in the next round.

On one hand, that makes sense. Florida was better than Boston during the regular season, and the Panthers didn’t have nearly as much trouble getting out of round one as the Bruins did. However, don’t underestimate the chances of this series turning into a goaltending duel. Whether it’s Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark, the Bruins’ goaltending is arguably better than the Panthers. Both Swayman and Ullmark ranked among the top-10 in goals saved above expected for the second season in a row. Boston finished third in goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 during the regular season and no goaltender was better than Swayman was in round one.

Also, the Bruins were just as good as the Panthers when it came to scoring goals. Boston finished 14th, scoring 3.15 goals per 60 minutes in all situations, while the Panthers finished 11th. Boston actually had an easier time scoring 5-on-5 goals during the regular season than the Panthers did, and there’s not a lot separating the Bruins and Panthers on special teams. Both teams finished among the top 10 on the power play and the penalty kill, and both units have been even better in the playoffs. In round one, the Bruins went 8-for-18 on the power play while killing 20 of Toronto’s 21 power play opportunities.

Of course, unlike Florida, Boston only has two players (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak) that are capable of taking over a game on their own, and the former is getting long in the tooth. The Bruins do have a couple of star defenceman in Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm, but the Panthers are much deeper at this position, too. Boston’s young players Mason Lohrei, Parker Wotherspoon, Justin Brazeau, and Johnny Beecher played well in round one, but round two should be a lot more physical. There probably won’t be as much time or space as there was in round one, either. The Panthers finished the season with the most hits (2,348) in the NHL this season, but Boston finished second (2,301) in hits.

Fans, pundits, and the like were critical of the way head coach Jim Montgomery used his goaltenders in last year’s opening-round loss to the Panthers. Montgomery chose to start Ullmark in all the first six games but decided to switch to Swayman, who hadn’t played in 17 days, in Game 7, and the rest is history. Montgomery rightfully chose to ride Swayman in round one, but the pressure is on him to make the right decision again in round two.

Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Winner


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Panthers vs. Bruins Series Prediction

Florida should carry the play in this series, but don’t be surprised if these two teams end up going the distance again. By my estimation, Florida will advance to the Eastern Conference Final roughly 62.4% of the time. There’s about a 31% chance that the series will go to six games, and a 30% chance that it will go to seven games. In other words, there’s a 61% chance that the series will go over 5.5 games.

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Panthers vs. Bruins Series Probabilities

Learn how to predict the winner of a best-of-seven playoff series here.

Panthers vs. Bruins Game 1 Odds

This series will get underway on Monday, and Florida is currently a -178 moneyline favourite in Game 1. Meanwhile, the Bruins are listed as +148 underdogs. As far as Boston goes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better odds than what’s currently available at NorthStar Bets. It’s still unclear who will start in goal for the Bruins, but Jeremy Swayman was the first goalie off the ice at Boston’s morning skate on Monday. I’m not willing to bet on Boston to win the series, as I think the Panthers should be priced at around -165. However, my model suggests the Game 1 odds should be closer to -134 in favour of the Panthers, and that means Boston is a good bet to win the game at +148 odds.

Boston Bruins Game 1 Moneyline


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