The Washington Capitals pulled off the biggest upset of the NHL postseason so far, defeating the Florida Panthers, 4-2, as +200 underdogs on Tuesday night.
While Washington’s victory caught the hockey world off-guard, it was no fluke. The Capitals earned every bit of their 1-0 series lead by executing a pitch-perfect game plan to slow down the Panthers and then hit back on the counter. At the end of the game, the Caps held a 4.11 to 2.21 expected goals edge and created two more high-danger scoring chances than the Cats at 5-on-5. Most importantly, they kept Florida’s vaunted offense to just seven high-danger scoring chances on the night at 5-on-5. The Panthers led the league in that category during the regular season.
Florida still remains a robust -180 favorite to win the series, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that what Washington pulled off on Tuesday night is a replicable strategy.
Capitals vs. Panthers Game 2 odds
Odds provided by PointsBet
Spread: WAS +1.5 (-121) vs. Panthers -1.5 (+100)
Moneyline: WAS (+210) vs. Panthers (-261)
Spread: Over 6.5 (-136) | Under 6.5 (+115)
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Capitals vs. Panthers Game 2 prediction
First of all, the Caps were one of the best road teams in the NHL during the regular season. Their absorb-and-counter style is conducive to playing a good “road game.” Washington doesn’t have the depth to get into a track meet with the Panthers, but if you can keep the Panthers within reach deep into the contest and capitalize on a mistake from their high-risk style, you give yourselves a chance. Washington showed that in Game 1.
The Capitals also did a great job of isolating goaltender Vitek Vanecek. The 26-year-old netminder didn’t look all that settled on Tuesday night, but Washington did everything it could to limit chances off the rush and the slot. Keeping Florida off the board is too tall of an ask, but if you can force the Cats to settle for low-quality shots for the most part and protect the house then you set your goalie up for success.
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Oftentimes in the NHL Playoffs, we’ll see bookmakers adjust numbers based on a “must-win” narrative. It’s hard to fathom the Presidents’ Trophy winners going down 0-2 in the first round, so it’s quite possible that the Capitals close at a higher price than they did for Game 1.
Washington has already proven that it can hang with the Panthers, so don’t be afraid to back the Caps at a big number on Thursday night.
Capitals vs. Panthers Game 2 prediction: Washington Capitals +205 (FanDuel)