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Lightning, Hurricanes and Panthers Tied Atop Central Division Odds – Who is The Best Bet?

Brady Trettenero

by Brady Trettenero in NHL Hockey

Apr 15, 2021 · 11:10 AM PDT

Central Division Odds - Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers
Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho (20) celebrates his goal against the Detroit Red Wings with teammate Martin Necas (88) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
  • The Lightning, Hurricanes, and Panthers are tied atop the NHL Central Division odds
  • Florida is listed with the toughest remaining schedule out of the three
  • Read below for betting analysis on the updated Central Division odds

The race for the Central Division crown in the NHL is going down to the wire. The Lightning, Hurricanes, and Panthers are all listed as co-favorites in the updated NHL Divisional odds as they sit in a three-way tie atop the Central Division standings.

The Bolts have been favored for the majority of the season, but they’re seeing their odds lengthen amidst a difficult stretch of play. The Panthers and Hurricanes have been trending upwards and seen steady improvement in their odds to win the division.

Is now the time to bet on Tampa Bay, or do the Hurricanes or Panthers offer better value?

Central NHL Division Odds

Team Odds at FanDuel
Tampa Bay Lightning +115
Carolina Hurricanes +115
Florida Panthers +450
Dallas Stars +25000
Nashville Predators +25000
Chicago Blackhawks +25000
Columbus Blue Jackets +25000
Detroit Red Wings OTB

All odds as of Apr. 15

Lightning Hasn’t Been Striking

The Lightning have seen their average odds to win the Central lengthen from -169 to +122 amidst a rough stretch of play. The Bolts are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games and are coming off a brutal 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Predators. Jon Coopers’ team still leads the Central with a +35 goal differential and are 15-4-0 on home ice.

The Bolts are listed with the best Stanley Cup odds out of the Central Division contenders and have the favorite in the Vezina Trophy odds with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Russian netminder has had a few tough outings of late, but his stellar .920 career save percentage suggests he’ll return to form soon.

The Lightning would likely be the sole favorite in the Central if superstar Nikita Kucherov was healthy. The Russian forward won’t be returning until the playoffs, however, and the Bolts offense has dried up with only six goals in the past four games. The Lightning did bolster their defensive depth at the trade deadline, however, acquiring Denis Savard from Columbus.

Hurricane Warning 

The Hurricanes have seen their average odds to win the Central shorten from +215 to +112 as they continue to impress. Rod Brind’Amour’s club is 6-3-1 in its past 10 games and is the only team in the division with a points percentage above .700. Workhorse Dougie Hamilton has played a major role in that success, racking up 33 points through 41 games.

The Hurricanes are right behind the Lightning when it comes to goal differential (+31) and lead all Central teams with a 54.32 Corsi percentage. The Canes don’t have a Vezina contender like Tampa Bay, but they have two reliable netminders in Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic, who both own a save percentage above .920.

The Canes weren’t too busy on deadline day, simply acquiring blueliner Jani Hakanpaa and a sixth-round pick from Anaheim in exchange for defenseman Haydn Fleury. Carolina is allowing the most high-danger chances out of the Central contenders, so the hope is the more defensively responsible Hakanpaa can help alleviate some of those issues.

Panthers Ready to Pounce 

The Panthers are now even with the other two powerhouses in the Central Division after a solid 7-3-0 stretch of play beginning in late March. Florida’s +19 goal differential is lacking when compared to the other two contenders, but they’re still a top-10 possession team with a 52.08 CF%.

The Panthers are allowing significantly more shots on goal than the Bolts and Canes, which is forcing goalie Chris Driedger to turn in some heroic efforts. The 26-year-old has been outstanding with a .930 save percentage and will likely need to keep that going considering Florida is listed, with the toughest remaining Strength of Schedule in the Central.

The Panthers made some interesting moves at the trade deadline, acquiring Nikita Gusev, Brandon Montour, and Sam Bennett in separate deals. Florida already has a top-10 offense, but the skill of Gusev and Bennett could lead to some timely goals down the final stretch.

Lightning Still Have Value

The Central Division NHL race could come down to the final week given the talent on all three of these rosters. Florida is facing the biggest challenge given their remaining schedule, while the Bolts and Canes will have the luxury of feasting on some of the division’s basement dwellers.

The Lightning offer the best value considering nine of their remaining 14 games are on home ice. The Bolts are almost unbeatable at Amalie Arena, while the Canes have a six-game road trip approaching and are only 13-7-0 away from PNC Arena.

Head-to-head matchups are also going to be key in this final stretch, which swings in favor of the Lightning. The Bolts have taken three of the last five meetings against Florida and three of the last four against Carolina. Expect those remaining matchups to be key in determining the Central Divisional race.

Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning (+115)

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