The Panthers have been very tough at home this season.
The Panthers have been very tough at home this season.@FlaPanthers on Twitter

Spilko's Wednesday NHL Playoffs Pick: Game 5 of Capitals vs Panthers, as Florida looks to protect home ice

Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers, 7:30 pm EDT (Series tied 2-2)

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The Washington Capitals missed an empty-netter with around three minutes left that would’ve likely sealed a 3-1 series advantage over the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winners heading into Game 5 in the first round of the postseason. Instead, the Florida Panthers knotted up the score in Game 4, then captured an overtime win to draw the series even at 2-2.

Let’s take a look at the bet to take in Game 5.

Game 5: Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers (Series tied 2-2)

To say that this first-round playoff series between the Capitals and the Panthers has been a confusing one is certainly not an understatement. Washington captured a surprising road win in Game 1 and then obliterated Florida in Game 3. However, Florida’s come-from-behind Game 4 evened the series at two apiece.

The over-under for Game 5 remains at 6.5 goals, though things are trending in the under’s direction. That under has hit in three out of four games in the series so far. When looking at Florida’s inability to capitalize on special teams, along with Washington’s mighty offensive struggles in the last game, we could be seeing another under in the near future. I’m willing to bet that the under will once again hit in Game 5.

Florida, a team that lost just seven games out of 41 at home in the regular season, will be returning home with all of the momentum. But the one aspect of Florida that has lacked consistently throughout the postseason has been its abysmal power play. The Panthers are an astounding 0-for-13 with a man-advantage in the series. Their lack of production on special teams has caused an obvious decrease in goal-scoring. Washington's carousel of goalies has kept Florida’s offense at bay, despite questions coming into the series with Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov in the crease, who have already swapped starter roles halfway through the series.

And while the Panthers’ special teams has stalled its goal production, Washington’s goal-scoring has slowed as well. The Capitals managed a series-low 16 shots in Game 4. Washington has hit the net more than 31 times in a game just once this series, with the Capitals collecting 38 shots on target in the opening game of the series. Washington’s offense might not be able to figure out the Panthers’ defense once again in a pivotal Game 5 on Florida's home ice.

Florida’s goal-starved power play and Washington’s Game 4 struggles on the offensive end of the ice signals another low-scoring contest in Game 5.

The pick: Under 6.5 goals (+105)

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