NHL Playoff Picks for Thursday, May 18, 2023

By Betmaker Team

It’s now been 30 years since the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. The Edmonton Oilers were Canada’s last hope to break the drought this postseason, but they fell to the Vegas Golden Knights at home in Game 6 to lose that series. To rub salt in the wound, an American team has won the CFL more recently than a Canadian team has won the NHL title, highlighting Canada’s long-term lack of success in their national pastime.

These playoffs will constitute a highlighted version of the Great White North’s woes in the NHL postseason as there isn’t a team north of the Mason-Dixon Line that will be playing for a conference title. In the Western Conference, the Vegas Golden Knights will face the Dallas Stars for the right to take part in the Stanley Cup Finals. Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference Finals will get underway on Thursday night with the Carolina Hurricanes listed as a slight favorite by the NHL futures odds over the Florida Panthers.


NHL Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook


Carolina Hurricanes -140 ML vs. Florida Panthers


The Carolina Hurricanes have been one of the most impressive teams this postseason. Carolina took care of the New Jersey Devils in five games despite being a slight underdog by the NHL series odds ahead of their showdown. The Canes won three of their four games by at least four goals in a series that only had one close game, and they will have had a full week of rest prior to this game.

Antti Raanta was the first-choice goaltender in the first round against New York, but he was replaced by Frederik Andersen in the final game of the series. Andersen was lights out against the Devils and has a 5-1 record in six games with a 1.80 GAA and a .931 save percentage. He was chased in Game 3 after allowing four goals in the first 21 minutes of play, but that was his only poor performance in the series.


Conversely, New Jersey first-round hero Akira Schmid completely fell apart against Carolina. Schmid was excellent in lifting the Devils past the New York Rangers in the first round, but he allowed 11 goals in a little over 145 minutes of action against the Hurricanes. Vitek Vanecek was awful throughout the postseason with a 4.64 GAA and an .825 save percentage, and that lack of goaltending doomed the Devils.


Bet-Rivers-Banner-Sep-29-2022-03-57-25-53-PM-3It was very surprising to see where the scoring came from for Carolina. Sebastian Aho is the star for the Canes, but he only had a goal and two assists in the series. Instead, we saw a collection of heroes emerge for the Canes, and that has fans of this team feeling confident entering the Eastern Conference Finals. No player on Carolina has more than five goals this postseason, but a whopping 12 players have scored at least twice for the Canes. That gives them arguably the best depth in the NHL.


Florida has already proven that it can take down the top dogs in the postseason. The Panthers were the best team in the NHL during the regular season during the 2021-22 campaign, but they only won playoff series before being ousted. They took the lessons from that defeat into this season though and left a little something extra in the tank for the playoffs. That allowed Florida to best both Boston and Toronto, taking down the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and establishing their bonafides in the process.


The Panthers have a hot goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky who is 7-2 with a 2.82 GAA and a 918 save percentage this postseason. Bobrovsky stopped 50 shots in Game 5 to knock Toronto out of the playoffs, and he put together some nice performances in the past with Columbus at this stage. That gives Florida more than a punchers’ chance, especially given the nature of postseason hockey.


Unlike Carolina’s attack which is quite varied, Florida relies on Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe. Tkachuk and Verhaeghe have teamed up to score 28 points, but no other player on the Panthers has more than nine points through 12 postseason games. They will be the key for Florida in this series, yet Carolina will shut them down in Game 1 in order to score first blood.