This article is part of our NHL Picks series.
NHL Best Bets for May 18: Expert NHL Picks and Props for Panthers vs. Hurricanes
The Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes kick off their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals series at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, and the game can be viewed on TNT.
The Panthers showed the No. 1 overall seed Boston Bruins the door in the first round, posting a win in seven games. Florida carried over the momentum against the Toronto Maple Leafs, dusting off a second Original Six franchise, this time in five games. Each of the past four games were decided by a single goal, including two overtime victories. In fact, Florida has played six one-goal games in the past eight outings, winning all but one of those games, with a 4-0 record in OT.
The Hurricanes eased by the New York Islanders in six games in the Conference Quarterfinals round, before rolling the Metropolitan Division rival New Jersey Devils in just five games. Unlike Florida, Carolina had just a single one-goal game against the Devs, the 3-2 OT win in Game 5 to win the series.
Florida is on an absolute roll, winning 10 of the past 11 games on the road dating back to the regular season, while winning seven of the past eight games overall. It is also an impressive 12-4 in the past 16 games when playing on three or more days of rest.
Both of these teams are rested, as the Canes have been off for a full week since putting the final nail in New Jersey's coffin last Thursday. Carolina is 42-15 in the past 57 games on home ice, which is a .737 winning percentage.
While the win percentage for Carolina at home is impressive, and the Canes are 5-1 on home ice in these playoffs, and 7-1 last season in the postseason at home, the Hurricanes are 0-8 in the past eight trips to the Conference Finals round, so be careful.
Carolina won the regular-season series 2-1, posting a 4-0 win on home ice against Florida on Dec. 30 in the only previous meeting this series in the Triangle. The Hurricanes also won 6-4 in the regular-season finale in Sunrise, picking up the two points necessary to secure the Metropolitan Division title.
Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start, and he is 7-2-0 with a 2.82 GAA and .918 SV% in nine starts and 10 appearances in the playoffs. The seven wins represent a career-best in the postseason.
Frederik Andersen had to wait from Aug. 2020 with the Maple Leafs, until Game 6 against the New York Islanders this season, to make his first postseason start. He was injured last season, and unable to play at all in the playoffs. Antti Raanta started the first five games this season, but in Game 6, The Great Dane took over, and he hasn't looked back. He is 5-0-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .931 SV% in six starts in the playoffs.
This is going to be a war, and a low-scoring battle in Raleigh. I like the Panthers to carry over their momentum and steal Game 1, although every game in this series is going to be a nail-biter in a series that is likely to go seven.
Sign up at FanDuel using the FanDuel promo code for a signup bonus featuring $150 in bonus bets. Already registered at FanDuel? RotoWire has the latest info and sportsbook promo codes for the best sports betting sites, including sportsbooks that accept credit card and PayPal betting sites.
NHL Money Line Bets for Panthers vs. Hurricanes
- Panthers ML (+122 at FanDuel)
As far as the total is concerned, I think we're going to see a lower-scoring game.
Bob allowed two goals in each of the five goals in the Toronto series, and the Panthers cashed the Under in every game against the Leafs. The Under is 4-0 in the past four games following a victory for Florida, too.
As far as the Canes are concerned, while Andersen has posted a sparkling 1.80 GAA in his six postseason starts, the Over is 4-1 in the past five games overall. The offense, which was a huge concern by Caniacs after Andrei Svechnikov went down with a season-ending injury after the trade deadline, has stepped up big time. Carolina averaged 4.8 goals per game in the five outings against New Jersey.
The lean is still to the Under, despite Carolina's offensive explosion, and I like the Panthers in a solid single-game parlay opportunity.
NHL Totals Bets for Panthers vs. Hurricanes
- Under 6 (-118 at BetRivers)
NHL Player Props for Panthers vs. Hurricanes
As far as the NHL player props are concerned for this opening matchup, we have a couple of solid anytime goal scorer options on both sides of the ice.
Hurricanes forward Martin Necas has lit the lamp three times in the past four games, including the game-winning tally in Game 4 at New Jersey. While he managed no goals and just one assist in three regular-season battles against Florida, roll the dice on the man from Nove Mesto na Morave, CZE.
- Martin Necas Anytime Goal Scorer (+170 at BetMGM)
For the Panthers, if anyone is going to break through, it's Matthew Tkachuk. While he was blanked in the Toronto series, totaling just two assists in the past four outings, he blew up for five goals and 11 points in the seven-game set with the Bruins. Look for the Rat King to rebound and get on the board.
- Matthew Tkachuk Anytime Goal Scorer (+150 at BetMGM)