NHL weekend betting preview: Panthers pushed to the brink

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The first week of the playoffs has been an absolute treat, and things are ramping up this weekend with all four divisions in full swing.

I tend to be more selective betting game-to-game in the postseason, focusing more on series bets and futures, but there's plenty that stands out to me over these next two days.

Hurricanes (-140) @ Predators (+120)
May 21, 7 p.m. ET

Staring at a 2-0 series deficit, the Predators head back to Nashville to try to pull back to within a game of the Hurricanes. While the first two games were tight heading into the final minutes, the underlying numbers speak to Carolina's dominance. The Hurricanes controlled 58% of the expected goal share at five-on-five and 64% at all strengths.

But a big part of that discrepancy can be attributed to a lopsided Game 1. The Predators played much better in a losing effort in Game 2, but there was plenty to hang their hats on, including generating eight high-danger chances at five-on-five to the Hurricanes' five. Home ice will also be huge in this series.

TEAM HOME AWAY
Hurricanes 20-3-5 16-9-3
Predators 18-10-0 13-13-2

There will be more fans in Bridgestone Arena on Friday than in any playoff or regular-season game (all venues) this season. The building will be rocking, and after a much tighter Game 2, look for the Predators to halve the series deficit on home ice in Game 3.

Pick: Predators (+120)

Panthers (+120) @ Lightning (-140)
May 22, 12:30 p.m.

The first-ever playoff meeting between the two Florida teams has certainly delivered. The Panthers salvaged their series hopes Thursday in Tampa, winning in overtime after erasing a 5-3 third-period deficit. A disappointing night for Chris Driedger ended after two periods as Sergei Bobrovsky came on and shut the door in relief, though he was hardly tested on the nine shots he faced.

The difference between the two goalies this year has been massive, with Driedger the far more reliable option. He had a rougher outing in Game 3, though he wasn't exactly at fault for the Lightning goals, and he was really strong in Game 2. Bobrovsky was about what we expected in Game 1, posting an ugly minus-2.56 GSAx, but the team will give him back the starter's crease for a pivotal Game 4 due to his efforts in relief Thursday. A Bobrovsky start combined with a Tampa offense clicking on all cylinders is enough for me to lay the chalk with the Bolts in Game 4.

Pick: Lightning (-140)

Alex Moretto is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

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NHL weekend betting preview: Panthers pushed to the brink
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