Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers: Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 1 Prediction, Preview, Picks & Odds - 5/17/2022

by Chuck Sommers

Eastern Conference Second Round – Game 1

Time: 7 p.m. ET
Venue: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise, FL
Where to watch: TNT

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Panthers -160, Lightning +140
BetMGM: Panthers -160, Lightning +135
Caesars: Panthers -161, Lightning +140

Al McMordie has reeled off a strong 20-8-0 run over the last month in the NHL. Man, what a start to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Did you enjoy all those Game Sevens? Because we sure did. You think all that fun in Round 1 was great? How about these next four matchups? It’s going to be a wild ride. You need to be tuned in here to find out all the expert analysis. Catch Al’s plays available right now at the Shop Picks page, where you can find all of the Best Bets from our champion sports handicappers.

Lightning - Panthers preview and analysis


Forget the Battle of Alberta. The Battle of Florida is going to be just as good, just as obnoxious, just as fun, and it might be just as Earth-shattering from a hockey perspective on what could happen. Either the Tampa Bay Lightning will come within one round of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, or the Florida Panthers will continue what’s been an epic season with the Presidents Trophy in tow.

The Lightning had to overcome what was probably the toughest series they’ve played during their two-year run, which I know includes a run in a pandemic bubble, but the Lightning’s seven-game win over the Toronto Maple Leafs was a meme, but also an indication that you are not allowed to count out the champs until they’re actually counted out.

And the hero of the day was Nick Paul, scoring both goals in the game and ending Toronto by taking its collective soul. And when they needed to most, Andrei Vasilevskiy was the better goalie after a 30-save performance.

"Growing up going to the Leafs games, even in the warmup they had the chants going, the electricity in this building was nuts, so to come in and work has hard as we did, there was no doubt in our game," said Paul, who is from Mississauga, Ontario, about 30 minutes west of Toronto. "We stuck together as a team and everyone brought their A-game, blocking shots, being detailed, being hard on pucks, and winning their battles, and to pull one out in a building like this, especially being here with family in the stands, it was a big one."

The Lightning, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have won this series. We can joke all day about the Leafs and how they’ll never win a first-round series, and that’s likely going to be the case, but they made life tough on the champs. The champs are just, well, the champs.

But if there was a team to put the champs out for good, if there was a team to essentially end the magical run, it’s their Florida neighbors because the Panthers may have taken one hell of a punch to the chin, but they endured the Washington Capitals’ best shot and won in six games to set up this incredible matchup.

The Lightning got the best of the Panthers last year in six games, despite the Panthers having home-ice advantage. This time is different. The Panthers added Claude Giroux to an already stacked roster, and now Carter Verhaeghe is turning into the likely Conn Smythe winner before our eyes after he scored the series-winning goal in overtime in Game 6 on Friday.

"It feels amazing," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "For a little while it felt like, what's happening right now? During my nine-year career here, I haven't been to the second round or past the first round, so it feels great. But at the same time, I know there's a lot of work to do. Right now, I enjoy this and get back to work tomorrow or whenever."

The Panthers have truly been incredible all season and have even gotten great goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky at the right time. It may not be Vezina Bob, but if he can keep the Cats above water for a large portion of time, Florida is going to win this series.

Prediction


The state of Florida is going to be lit this week between this and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. This is going to be the best series of the playoffs, and I’m going to take the Panthers in Game 1, to set the tone with that group. Panthers win 4-2

Betting trends


Lightning are 88-34 the past three seasons after an under.

Lightning are 7-1 this season off a one-goal win over a division opponent.

Panthers are 19-7 against division opponents this season.

Projected lines


Lightning:

Ondrej Palat -- Steven Stamkos -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Anthony Cirelli -- Brandon Hagel

Nicholas Paul -- Brayden Point -- Ross Colton

Pat Maroon -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Corey Perry

Victor Hedman -- Erik Cernak

Ryan McDonagh -- Cal Foote

Mikhail Sergachev -- Zach Bogosian

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Panthers:

Anthony Duclair -- Aleksander Barkov -- Claude Giroux

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Sam Bennett -- Sam Reinhart

Mason Marchment -- Anton Lundell -- Noel Acciari

Ryan Lomberg -- Eetu Luostarinen -- Patric Hornqvist

Ben Chiarot -- Aaron Ekblad

Gustav Forsling -- MacKenzie Weegar

Brandon Montour -- Radko Gudas

Sergei Bobrovsky

Don't miss our champion handicappers' free picks and expert hockey picks today. And if you enjoyed this Tampa Bay Lightning - Florida Panthers prediction, be sure to drop by every day for our daily NHL projections and previews.

Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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