Panthers at Capitals Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 2/9/2013
Adam Oates was a tremendous NHL player in his 19-season career, good enough to be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame last year. But it’s starting to appear that perhaps Oates is overmatched as a head coach in the league.
The Washington Capitals only hired Oates, formerly a Devils assistant, because Dale Hunter chose to return to run the junior club he owns in Canada. Hunter led the Caps to the second round of last year’s playoffs after taking over around midseason for the fired Bruce Boudreau – the same coach who is leading the very good Anaheim Ducks, by the way. Oates’ Capitals have been the NHL’s biggest disappointment this season at 2-8-1 entering Saturday’s game with Florida. Those five points are by far the fewest in the NHL.
Florida (4-5-1) has been about what everyone expected by hovering around .500. The Panthers were often rumored as the landing spot for Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, but the Canucks haven’t traded him yet and probably won’t with as well as Luongo is playing.
This is the first meeting of the season between the Southeast Division rivals. Washington won four of the six last year, with not one game going to overtime. The last meeting in 2012 was memorable for Florida despite a 4-2 road loss on April 5. That’s because the Panthers backed into the playoffs even with the loss, ending the longest postseason drought in the NHL.
Panthers at Capitals Betting Story Lines
Thursday’s 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh summed up Washington’s season thus far. The Caps took a 1-0 lead into the second period only to see Pittsburgh score five times in less than 13 minutes. Starting Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth gave up two goals on 11 shots before being pulled. Braden Holtby was worse, allowing three more goals on his first 11 shots. Washington’s goaltending is wretched. In seven appearances this season, Neuvirth is 1-4-1 with a 3.05 GAA and .889 save percentage. Holtby is 1-4-0 with a 4.74 GAA and .857 save percentage. The Capitals, who are No. 27 in penalty killing, have allowed three or more goals nine times and are 0-8-1 in those games.
“We weren't ready to play,” right wing Troy Brouwer said to reporters following Thursday’s game. “We got hemmed in our zone for the first two shifts, just weren't ready to play, minds weren't in it. That's been our biggest problem. We have mental lapses, and this one happened before the game even started.”
“Mentally I don't think we were, to be honest,” defenseman Mike Green agreed.
“I agree,” Alex Ovechkin said.
That’s a sign of coaching, and players were openly questioning the early hook for Neuvirth. Ovechkin, meanwhile, is part of the problem. Off the worst season of his career, Ovechkin has three goals and four assists and is minus-5. He did score Thursday, but it was in garbage time. Ovechkin is nowhere near the elite player he once was, and his contract has hamstrung the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom also isn’t what he once was with one goal on the year (he does have seven assists). About the only guy playing well is leading scorer Mike Ribeiro, who has 13 points and is a team-best plus-3.
This is the end of a four-game trip for Florida, which has won two of the first three. Each of the past two have gone to overtime, with the Panthers losing 3-2 at Winnipeg on Tuesday in OT but then beating Philadelphia 3-2 on Thursday in Florida’s first shootout of the year. Cats goalie Jose Theodore was bombed in his first meeting with Philly this year – a 7-1 Flyers win – but stopped 30 shots on Thursday, including all 10 in the third period and overtime as well as two in the shootout. It was only the second time in his last 20 shootouts that Theodore did not allow at least one goal. He had given up goals on 41 percent of the attempts against him over his last 19 shootouts (29 of 71).
Florida’s goaltending isn’t much better than Washington’s, ranking No. 27 in allowing 3.5 goals per game. Theodore’s GAA is 3.11, but he has all four wins. Backup Scott Clemmensen has a 4.11 GAA in three appearances. Coach Kevin Dineen made a lineup change that paid off Thursday. He benched 40-year-old Alex Kovalev in favor of Jack Skille, who had been a healthy scratch the past two games. Skille rewarded his coach with his first goal of the year. Dineen also replaced Kris Versteeg on the No. 1 line with Peter Mueller.
Defenseman Keaton Ellerby, who was minus-2 in Tuesday's loss to the Jets, received his first healthy scratch of the season. And then the team traded him to Los Angeles for a pick. He was expendable because young blueliner Erik Gudbranson made his season debut from offseason shoulder surgery. He showed major promise as a rookie in the playoff series loss to New Jersey. Gudbranson blocked two shots and had three hits in 21:02 of ice time Thursday.
Panthers at Capitals NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Washington is -135 and Florida +115 with the total at 5.5 for the opening lines. The Panthers have won two of their past three as a dog. They are 5-5 “over/under” this year and 2-4 on road. Washington is 4-7 over/under (2-4 at home). The Caps have lost three of their past four as a favorite.
Florida is 1-4 in its past five after a win. The Panthers are 1-5 in their last six games after allowing two goals or fewer in their previous game. Washington is 1-7 in its past eight when its opponent allows two goals or fewer in its previous game. The Caps are 0-5 in their past five playing on one day of rest. The over is 5-0 in Washington’s past five Southeast Division games. The home team has won seven of the past eight meetings. The under is 5-2 in the past seven in Washington.
Panthers at Capitals Picks and Betting Predictions
If Washington scores first, that’s a bad thing for Caps backers. The Caps have done so four times this season and are 0-4-0. Still, purely on talent, Washington is vastly superior to Florida. Since the goaltending is essentially a wash, I have to roll with the home team and the under.
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