The Florida Panthers have done it again.
Despite getting outplayed for the majority of the first two games of their best-of-seven series with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Cats are skating back to Sunrise with a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final.
If this script sounds familiar, it’s because the Panthers enjoyed a similar start in their eventual win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 2.
The Leafs out-chanced Florida by a wide margin in Games 1 and 2 of their series, but Sergei Bobrovsky stood on his head in goal for the Cats and they were clinical with their scoring opportunities.
All of that added up to a 2-0 lead and the Panthers were terrific in Game 3 to essentially end Toronto’s chances to come back.
With their series against the ’Canes playing out to a similar pattern as their showdown with the Leafs, it’s hard not to get swept up in the narrative that the Panthers are a team of destiny.
They came from 3-1 down to stun the record-setting Boston Bruins, sent the Maple Leafs into disarray and are now up 2-0 on the team that finished with the second-best record in the regular season.
But just because we feel like we’ve seen this movie before doesn’t mean it’ll have the same ending. Carolina is unfortunate to be down 2-0 after two home games, but the ’Canes aren’t done.
At the time of writing, the Hurricanes are sitting at +375 to come back and win this series and are +600 to win the Stanley Cup.
Those numbers are a little tempting and the most direct way to bet into a Carolina comeback would be to play either one of those, but there’s a wager with much higher upside out there should the Canes come from behind and win the Eastern Conference.
Carolina is a score-by-committee team.
That was the case in the regular season and has translated into the postseason.
Sebastian Aho leads the team with 12 points in 13 games, but he’s only got five since Round 1 and has just one goal in his last seven contests.
He is Carolina’s front-runner to win the Conn Smythe Award (Playoff MVP) if the ’Canes win the Stanley Cup, but his odds (15/1) tell you that it would be a wide open race if that happens.
The other contenders for the Hurricanes — at least according to oddsmakers — are Frederik Andersen (20/1) and Brent Burns (25/1).
Andersen is certainly a threat to win the award if the ’Canes go all the way, but he’s only started seven of Carolina’s 13 games this postseason and doesn’t have the best track record for staying healthy.
As for Burns, he’s got the storyline that voters love as a 37-year-old who has never won the Stanley Cup, but he’s an offensive defenseman and his numbers (two goals, seven assists) don’t leap off the page.
With the market lukewarm on any of the Carolina standouts, that could open the door for a long-shot winner if the ’Canes win it all.
Which brings us to Jaccob Slavin at 80/1 (BetMGM).
Undoubtedly Carolina’s No. 1 defenseman and perhaps its most important skater, Slavin’s role is to play against the best players on the opposing team.
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On most teams in this postseason that kind of role would get overlooked by voters.
But Slavin’s reputation as one of the best defensive-defensemen in the NHL is well known in the league by now.
That means even a player with his mediocre output (six points in 13 games) can win the Conn Smythe.
If Carolina comes back and wins this series, it’ll likely be because Slavin was able to shut down Matthew Tkachuk and his linemates.
If that happens, he’ll have plenty of Conn Smythe momentum.
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