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NHL Team Focus: Florida Panthers

Aaron Ekblad Florida Panthers NHL

Not long ago, the Florida Panthers were the talk of the NHL. They used a 12-game winning streak to shoot up the Eastern Conference standings (and Stanley Cup futures board) with a roster combining budding superstars (Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov) and savvy veterans (Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo).

The Panthers still sit second in the Eastern Conference at the time of writing (57 points) but the stellar play during the streak seems like a distant memory. Heading into Friday’s meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Panthers have lost four-straight games and have been outscored 16-5 in the process.

Is this a sign of things to come in the latter half of the season or is this a bump in the road in an otherwise successful season in Sunrise?

Well, in the short term anyway, we might be able to get a glimpse of where the Panthers stand and whether or not they are a play-on team or a fade option down the stretch.

To finish January, the Panthers have three games which are all on home ice. This begins Friday with the Blackhawks. Saturday they host their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, just days after losing to them 3-1. Finally, they have a date with the Toronto Maple Leafs. How the team fares against one of the best teams in the league, the team they are fending off at the top of the Atlantic and a perennial bottom-feeder could show us what to expect from them the rest of the way – at least from a betting perspective.

February doesn’t get any easier as they have dates with the Capitals, Penguins and Red Wings (twice) to start the month.

The thing about the aforementioned winning streak is that the majority of those games came against, shall we say, less than stellar opposition. Among those 12 wins were triumphs over the likes of the Devils, Hurricanes, Canucks, Senators (twice), Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Sabres and Oilers. Those wins came against two teams (Canucks, Devils) currently sitting in eighth in their respective conferences and six teams who are on the outside looking in. Sure, a 12-game winning streak is a 12-game winning streak, but maybe it’s best to not believe the hype when it comes to backing them at the betting window.

That said, it must be noted that the Panthers have been incredibly kind to bettors this year. Florida is the second-best earning team in the league, sitting at +$695 if a bettor risked $100 on each of their games this season. Also, there are presently four teams that have positive returns both at home and on the road for bettors: the Capitals, Kings, Coyotes and, of course, these Panthers.

Considering their tough upcoming schedule, their four-game slump and how easily they’ve been beaten in those games (remember the 6-0 thumping Calgary gave them?) the Panthers might be a good fade candidate until further notice.

Take Friday’s game for example. Online shop Bovada is offering the Hawks and Panthers at -110 apiece in moneyline markets. That looks like a mighty attractive price for the defending Cup champs and if there is value to be had on team’s squaring off with the Panthers, it makes fading the Cats all the more appealing.