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Bet on Florida to stay hot and complete the sweep over Toronto in NHL playoffs

Facing an inexperienced goalie, the Panthers will score their seventh straight upset and eliminate Toronto

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been in net throughout his team’s franchise-best six-game playoff winning streak. The 13-year NHL veteran has stopped 97 of 103 shots during Florida’s second-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been in net throughout his team’s franchise-best six-game playoff winning streak. The 13-year NHL veteran has stopped 97 of 103 shots during Florida’s second-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)Read moreJoel Auerbach / Getty Images

Eight days ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs were coming off their first playoff series win in 19 years and were favored to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967.

Now, they’re one loss away from another long summer vacation after getting upset by the eight-seeded Florida Panthers in each of the first three games of a best-of-7 Eastern Conference playoff series. Toronto is now staring at the prospect of becoming the first team to be swept in this year’s postseason.

The NHL wagering community apparently has faith in the Leafs, who on Wednesday will hit the ice as the betting favorite against a Panthers team that is riding a franchise-record six-game playoff winning streak — all as an underdog.

Why is Toronto favored in Game 4? We have no clue. But we have no interest in wagering against Florida, which looks like a team of destiny as it continues to rally around the mantra of “unfinished business”.

Odds updated as of 11:45 a.m. ET on May 10.

Maple Leafs vs. Panthers Prediction

  1. Panthers moneyline, +100 (at Caesars Sportsbook)

  2. Note: Stick with this bet at Panthers -110 or better

Maple Leafs vs. Panthers Prediction: Analysis

A year ago, Florida went 58-18-6 and won the Presidents’ Trophy with a league-best 122 points. That gave the Panthers the No. 1 overall seed entering the postseason.

But after knocking off the Washington Capitals in the first round, Florida got swept by the then two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

This year, the Panthers barely squeaked into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed. So of course they promptly found themselves down 3-1 to this year’s Presidents’ Trophy winner, the Boston Bruins.

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Since then? Florida has reeled off upset after upset after upset. The first three knocked out Boston, which set multiple regular-season records and was this year’s overwhelming Stanley Cup favorite.

The last three have pushed Toronto, which entered the second round as the new Stanley Cup favorite, to the brink of elimination.

Six consecutive playoff wins is impressive, no matter the team. Even more impressive is the Panthers weren’t expected to win any of them. And more impressive than that is how they secured those victories.

Four came on the road — two in overtime in Boston in Games 5 and 7; a 4-2 win in Game 1 in Toronto; and a 3-2 comeback victory in Game 2 in Toronto after the Maple Leafs opened an early 2-0 lead.

Then there was Sunday’s Game 3 in South Beach. Once again, the Panthers spotted Toronto an early 1-0 lead, tied it, then fell behind 2-1 and tied it again. From there, they thwarted numerous Leafs scoring chances and prevailed 3-2 in overtime.

Time and again during their six-game run, the Panthers have displayed a character trait that’s synonymous with all championship teams: No matter the circumstances, they simply refuse to give up.

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Another intangible working in Florida’s favor right now: Everyone is contributing.

The Panthers’ 10 goals in this series have come from nine different players. And two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky has been nothing short of spectacular.

Bobrovsky has limited one of the NHL’s most lethal offensive attacks — one that scored 23 goals in six games against the Lightning in the opening round — to two goals in each game. And none of those goals were scored by the Maple Leafs’ top four goal producers.

Yep, even perennial All-Star Auston Matthews has failed to find the back of the net in this series.

Overall, Bobrovsky has turned aside 97 of Toronto’s 103 shots for a sparkling .942 save percentage. Throw in the final three wins against the Bruins and the 34-year-old Russian has posted a .921 save percentage during his team’s six-game winning streak.

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Staying on the topic of goaltenders, the Maple Leafs lost their primary netminder — Ilya Samsonov — to an unspecified injury early in the second period of Sunday’s contest. Third-string goalie Joseph Woll replaced Samsonov and allowed all three of Florida’s goals.

Samsonov has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game. And while primary backup Matt Murray (concussion) has been cleared to return to the ice, he hasn’t played since April 2.

So Murray will back up Woll, a 24-year-old who has given up four goals on 30 shots in these playoffs and whose NHL experience is limited to 13 games — none of which were on the road in a do-or-die situation.

And yet, Woll and his teammates are favored. Against a team that’s beaten both its opponent and NHL oddsmakers six straight times.

Call us crazy, but we’re taking the bait. Back Florida to complete the sweep and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 27 years.

Maple Leafs vs. Panthers Odds (via Caesars Sportsbook):

  1. Moneyline: Maple Leafs (-120) @ Panthers (+100)

  2. Puck Line: Maple Leafs -1.5 (+192) @ Panthers +1.5 (-235)

  3. Total: 6.5 goals (Over -130/Under +110)

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