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Panthers-Bruins series preview: Betting by the numbers

Boston Globe / Getty

The Bruins set an NHL record for regular-season victories. They took an insurmountable division lead almost instantly, virtually refusing to lose games before Christmas. Their march to the Presidents' Trophy was uncontested, but when it comes to the real trophy in question - does all this regular-season work get them a bye? More home games than usual to take advantage of a 34-4-3 TD Garden record? Maybe Boston gets to play with an extra skater for the first period of Game 1?

No, nope, and of course not.

Instead, the Bruins get a matchup with the worst playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, which wouldn't be a bad prize, except that team just happens to be the Panthers - last year's Presidents' Trophy winners.

Series odds

Panthers +190 +265 +1.5 (+125)
Bruins -220 -330 -1.5 (-165)

At higher than -300, the Bruins are the biggest favorite in the first round, which considering the regular season they just had, shouldn't come as a surprise. For historical context, though, the Lightning had a historic season of their own in 2019 (and would later win two Stanley Cups) and came into a first-round series against the Blue Jackets as -400 favorites. They got swept.


Using primarily even-strength metrics to evaluate a team's quality, we've established how a team rates relative to an average NHL team. We use these ratings to create an implied win probability split in each game, which we then translate to a fair moneyline price for each before home-ice advantage is applied and the sportsbook takes their vig on a bet. Here's how these teams rated for the season and when isolating play after the All-Star break.

Panthers +17% +16%
Bruins +21% +9%

Predictably, the Bruins rated well this season at 21% better than an average NHL team - even after they spent much of the last two months with their foot off the gas. They would have been well within their rights to expect a matchup with an average NHL team - the Penguins or Islanders, for example.

The Panthers spent the early part of the season finding ways to lose, but right before all hope was lost - without a meaningful change in their metrics - they started to get the two points they rightly deserved more often than not.

Advanced metrics at even strength

XG%= Expected goal share
HDC%= High-danger chance share
HDCV%= High-danger chance conversion rate
OPP. HDCV%= Opponents' high-danger chance conversion rate

Panthers 52.8 53.4 12.3 10.1
Bruins 53.7 52.7 12.9 9.3

*Average NHL HDCV% = 12.5%

Here's the list of teams to create over 1000 total high-danger chances this season: The Hurricanes, Devils, and Panthers. Though the Bruins - as evidenced by an absurdly low opponent high-danger conversion rate - gave up less than one goal per game on those chances.

Goaltending matchup

Sergei Bobrovsky 0.06
Spencer Knight -0.23
Alex Lyon 0.74
Linus Ullmark 0.79

In other previews, we occasionally listed two goaltenders for a team because we didn't know which member of a tandem would get the first shot at the net. We're certain that Alex Lyon will get the net for Florida, but we need to illustrate exactly what the Panthers were getting in goal before they turned the crease over to a mostly career AHL goaltender.

Sergei Bobrovsky is the massive investment that's now merely a replacement-level goalie, and Spencer Knight was supposed to be the young star of the future. Instead, in a short 15-game sample, it's the 30-year-old Lyon who played comparable to probable Vezina winner Linus Ullmark.

Special teams

Panthers 22.8 76.0 98.8
Bruins 22.2 87.3 109.5

If you were waiting for the big statistical disparity between these teams, you finally found one with each team's penalty kill.

Moneyline betting guide

If you followed our NHL betting guide, where we projected moneylines for each game, allowing us to compare and contrast our price to bet with what's available on a daily basis, you may be interested in what prices would be considered valuable for each team when they're on the road, at home, and for the series as a whole.

Panthers 49.9 +177 +110 +196
Bruins 50.1 -143 +111 -158

The near 50-50 nature of a neutral site win probability is due entirely to the even-strength metrics detailed above and the assumption of equal goaltending. Admittedly, that seems like an unlikely result in each crease, but stranger things have happened, and there's no predicting goaltending in the playoffs.

We'll make a significant concession for the Bruins' home-ice advantage. A 34-7 moneyline record is impossible to ignore, especially in comparison with the Panthers' 19-22 road moneyline record. Even the Bruins' road record is considerably better than the Panthers' home mark.

Best bet

So here we are, making as many considerations for the Bruins' season as possible while not ignoring some of the factual predictive information that suggests a team with a 40-goal-scorer designed in a lab for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Matthew Tkachuk, depth up the middle led by two-way center Aleksander Barkov, and a trio of big-minute defensemen, might be dangerous.

After all, that roster was projected behind just the Avalanche and Maple Leafs for the third-most points before the season. The talent is there.

Out of respect for the Bruins, I don't want anything to do with needing to win a Game 7 in Boston for the upset. So when looking for ways to back the Panthers to be competitive, we'll take the plus-money on the series spread.

But just in case we're right - that the 2022 Presidents' Trophy winners can find something that includes lightning in a bottle - we'll add a little on the Panthers to get an upset done before having to go to Boston for a third time, just so we can look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning.

Game 1: Panthers moneyline (if it gets to +200)
Series: Panthers +1.5 games (+125)
Series: Panthers -1.5 games (+475)

Matt Russell is the senior betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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