In the last day of the NFL regular season, the NHL has a few games for hockey fans to consume their time with. With four games on the schedule, we turn down south to Florida where the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers go to battle. I called the Panthers as the break through, surprise team of this season months ago. Thus far, that prediction has come up aces as the Panthers are 22-12-3-1 and are winners of eight straight games. The Panthers are 9-1 in their last ten games. There are some big names on that list, none bigger than the Washington Capitals, who they beat 4-1. Their two latest victories came against the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. The Panthers are well on their way to getting in on the fun in the playoffs in a few months. Whether anybody in Florida cares is another story, but people should start to take notice of the Panthers. The ageless one Jaromir Jagr is playing better than players 20 years younger than him. In a fitting gesture, Jagr has been named one of the captains for the NHL All-Star Game. Jagr turns 44 years old next month.
With the kind of defense that the Panthers possess, anything could be possible in the playoffs. We’ll see if they continue at this pace, because right now they’ve been playing better than anybody defensively. Whether it’s Roberto Luongo or Al Montoya, the goaltending has been spectacular for the Panthers. Luongo is just not enjoying his remaining years in Florida, but he is also winning games with the Panthers. Montoya in the limited time he has played has stepped up as well. By what I have been reading Montoya may get the nod in net today. He owns a 5-1-1 record with a 1.78 GAA. He is fully capable of taking the Panthers over if Luongo happens to get injured. Montoya is a nice luxury for the Panthers to have. Likewise, Luongo has a strong 2.09 GAA heading into the new year as well. Teams are going to need to find a way to score goals on the Panthers, right now it isn’t working. The Wild will be the next team to try and find the back of the net against the Panthers.
Minnesota Wild vs. Florida Panthers NHL Pick
During this big run for the Panthers, they have been almost impossible to score goals on. Only twice did they allow more than 2 goals in any game. The Panthers have allowed an average of just 1.40 goals per game in their last ten games. In other words, the Panthers have been frustrating opposing offenses. It isn’t like they have been taking advantage of bad offenses either, some of them in there are pretty solid units, including the Capitals and Bruins.
The Wild have been holding their own on defense as well. That is their identity, and it has been that way for them for a while. The Wild do not want to get into high scoring 5-4 games. They will take the 3-1 and 2-1 wins. In their last ten games, they’ve allowed only 2.10 goals per game. In total between the Wild and Panthers, they have allowed an average of 1.5 goals per game their last ten games. The Panthers just played last night in an impressive 3-0 win over the Rangers. The Wild played as well, a 3-2 loss to the Lightning. The OVER hasn’t hit since 2008 between these two teams, eight games ago. Both defenses have been playing lights out hockey. I like it to continue on Sunday.
PICK: UNDER 5 GOALS (-125)