Another great Friday night of hockey is set to go down tonight. Six games are up on the board for October 18. One of the matchups set to go down will be between the Colorado Avalanche and the Florida Panthers. The Avalanche have been off to a really strong start and Florida will look to slow them down. This game will start at around 7:00 PM Eastern time.
Colorado has gone 5-0-1 to start out the new season, which has them in first place of the Central Division. The Avalanche are coming off their first loss of the season in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Colorado will look to bounce back after that loss with a road upset. I expect the Avalanche to continue to come out strong.
The Panthers have posted a 2-2-2 record to open up the season. Florida is currently in seventh place of the Atlantic Division. The Panthers won their last game to end a three game losing streak. Florida will look to build upon their win against the New Jersey Devils with another win against the streaking Avalanche. This will be their first game back home since October 8.
The Avalanche have had one of the best starts this season, while Florida is still hovering around that mediocre part. The Panthers made a lot of moves in the offseason to try and up their game this season, but the chemistry has not quite clicked yet it seems. Florida will need to come out fast if they want to knock off Colorado on Friday night.
The Avalanche and the Panthers met up twice throughout last season. Florida hosted the first game of the season and kept it tied through two periods. Colorado scored three times in the third period though to pull away with a 5-2 win. The second game was a much closer game. Mike Hoffman scored in the later half of the third period to tie it up. Hoffman added two assists, including one on the overtime winner, as Florida won 4-3.
Colorado is coming off their first loss of the season. The Avalanche won four of their previous five games by two goals or more. Colorado has had a really strong showing from their first line. Mikko Rantanen has four goals and six assists. Nathan MacKinnon has three goals and six assists, while Gabriel Landeskog has two goals and four assists.
The Panthers were able to finish out their three game road trip with a win against New Jersey. Florida lost their previous two games in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders. Mike Hoffman leads the team in goals and points with five goals and three assists. Evgenii Dadonov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Brett Connolly, Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov all have five or more points.
Colorado’s special teams has been firing on all cylinders to start out this season. The Avalanche have scored on 6 of their 25 power play attempts for a 24 percent conversion rate. Colorado has stopped opponents on 14 of their 17 chances throughout the season, which is an 82.4 kill percentage. The Avalanche have a strong penalty kill and also do a good job keeping out of the box.
The Panthers have put up a really strong special team as well this season. Florida’s power play has scored on 5 of their 23 attempts for a 21.7 percent. The Panthers penalty kill has also been doing really well, turning away 13 of the 15 power plays against them, which is 86.7 percent. Like Colorado, Florida is a disciplined team, so they do not give up a lot of power play opportunities.
These two teams have strong power plays and penalty kills so far this season. I do not think that their will be a lot of power plays in this matchup, but both teams will have a good chance to capitalize when they do get the chance. I think that with the Avalanche’s top line, their power play is a little more dangerous, but I expect special teams to play a big role in this game.
Philipp Grubauer is expected to get the start in net on Friday night. Grubauer has gone 4-0-1 in his five starts this season. He has a save percentage of .922 and a GAA of 2.57 through those starts. Grubauer had a record of 18-9-5 throughout last season, with a .917 save percentage and a 2.64 GAA, which helped lead Colorado to the playoffs.
I believe that Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start in the crease for the Panthers in this matchup. Bobrovsky has started this season with a record of 2-2-1. He has earned a .870 save percentage and a GAA of 3.90 in those five games. Last season Bobrovsky was with the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he had a 37-24-1 record. He finished with a save percentage of .913 and a 2.58 GAA.
These two goalies are both really strong, but Bobrovsky has not been doing the best to start this season. The Panthers will need Bobrovsky to bump up his game to the next level if they want to move up the standings. Grubauer has been off to a much stronger start this season and he will look to keep it up to keep that starting job.
The Avalanche are coming of their first loss of the season and I believe that they will bounce back with a road win in this game. Florida has had a tough schedule to start out the season and they have not been able to find their rhythm. Colorado’s starting line has been on a roll and I don’t think they will be slowing down soon.
BetOnline has the Panthers listed as a -123 against the money line, which implies that Florida will win this game around 55.2 percent of the time. The Panthers are solid, but I do not think that they should be this big of favorites against the Avalanche. As an underdog, Colorado has a lot of value. If Grubauer keeps up his play and Colorado’s special teams can keep doing well, I think the Avalanche will take this one.