Wild vs. Panthers NHL Picks: Skills Between The Pipes Point To 'Under'

Bruce Webster

Sunday, January 3, 2016 5:13 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016 5:13 PM UTC

Our NHL handicapper offers his insight on Sunday's game between the Minnesota Wild & Florida Panthers and concludes his analysis with an NHL pick.

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NHL Pick: Under 5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


The Wild are Ramping Up the Defense
The Minnesota Wild have been a solid defensive team this year, but they seem to be ramping up even more at that end of the ice of late. The Wild come in having allowed just 22 goals in regulation over their last 14 games and they have allowed two goals or less in 11 of those games. Dubnyk has been solid in the crease with a 2.32 GAA, while Darcy Kuemper has a 2.12 GAA. Kuemper is out right now for an injury, so getting the start in this game will be Niklas Backstrom, who will be making his first start of the year. Last year he went 5- with a 3.05 GAA. He won his first five starts last year, but lost his last seven.

The Wild check in at 7th in the league in goals allowed, giving up just 2.4 gpg, while the have allowed teams to convert on 22.3% of their power play chances, which is 27th in the league. The offense is led by Thomas Vanek, who has 12 goals on the year, while the other double digit scorers on the team are Zach Parise (11th) and Mikko Koivu (10). This is a solid offensive team that comes in ranked 11th in scoring, putting up 2.7 gpg, while converting on 20% of their power play chances, which is ranked 10th in the league. This is a solid team overall and with the way they have been playing defense this year they could make a solid run in the playoffs this year.


How Good are the Panthers?
Florida right now is rolling as they have won their last seven in a row and will be going for number eight on Saturday night, but just how good are they? I will say that this is a very solid team that has the right mix of veterans and younger players, plus some solid goaltending in Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya. Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and Reilly Smith each have 11 goals, which lead the team, while four other players have seven goals or more. This is a pretty balanced offensive squad that comes that comes in ranked 17th in scoring, putting up just 2.6 gpg, while converting on 17.8% of their power play chances, which is 20th in the league. Yes they could use a bit more offense.

On the defensive end of the ice is where they have excelled, ranking 3rd in the league in goals allowed, giving up just 2.2 gpg, while allowing teams to convert on 20.0% of their power play chances, which is 16th. Roberto Luongo is hot right now for the Panthers as he has won his last six starts, allowing just 10 total goals over that stretch. He is slated to start Saturday night’s game vs the Islanders, so getting the nod in this one will be Al Montoya, who has gone a very solid 5-2 with a 1.79 GA on the year, while vs the Wild in his career he has gone a perfect 4-0 with a 1.01 GAA. Overall this is a solid team and should they get just a bit more offense then they could very well make a deep run in the playoffs. Let's review the NHL Odds & Trends:


Minnesota is:

The Under is 8-2-2 in their last 12 games playing on 0 days rest

The Under is 5-0-1 in their last six road games

Florida is:

The Under is 6-1-1 in their last eight vs. a team with a winning record

The Under is 49-24-12 in their last 85 vs. Central Division


Betting Analysis
This game should have some solid goaltending, well mostly on the Florida side, but still the teams could be a bit tired after playing the night before ad that should lead to a bit of a sluggish game. Take Under as the NHL Picks, 4-0-4 the last eight in the series and with a couple of mediocre and tired offenses we should get at most four goals scored in this one.

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