Just two days after coming out victorious against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers got demolished by their state rivals, losing by a score of 6-1. There is little, if anything, that the team did right, and they have a few things that will need to be adjusted prior to Monday’s rematch.
Bench Sergei Bobrovsky
This headline sounds like the same never-ending story that I’ve been preaching for quite some time now, but it’s the truth. Sergei Bobrovsky has been horrible. He has the tools to be a great goaltender, but he just hasn’t been, and until he does, he needs to sit and let Chris Driedger take over the crease.
Bobrovsky saved 22 of 28 shots last night, good for a .786 save percentage (SV%), and a -3.37 goals saved above expected (GSAx). For reference, his counterpart, Andrei Vasilevskiy, saved 33 of 34 shots, resulting in a .971 SV% and 1.68 GSAx.
Bobrovsky drops to second worst in the entire NHL in GSAx, with a -7.96 this season, only trailing Ottawa Senators netminder Marcus Hogberg. He now possesses a -26.07 GSAx since joining the Panthers last season.
Coach Joel Quenneville had this to say during the post-game media scrum: “Big saves change the momentum. You could argue that that’s what happened today,” in regards to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s game.
Driedger just seems like the better option for the time being, with a 3-1-1 record, along with a .937 SV% and 1.33 GSAx. I would expect him to get the nod on Monday, as the team just shows more confidence when he is in net, rather then when Bobrovsky is in.
Duclair’s Unluckiness Continues
Anthony Duclair has been elite this season. He has been far and wide one of the best offensive players on the Panthers, creating high-quality scoring chances every single game, but he has yet to score.
After coming off of the COVID-19 protocol list, Duclair slid back into the lineup last night, and while he did have a 0.98 expected goals for (xGF), it wasn’t enough, and he went another game without a goal. He has a 3.28 xGF/60, good for 20th in the entire NHL, meaning he’s one of the best in the league at creating high-quality scoring chances.
Duclair is no stranger to this, however, as last season he scored 23 goals and had a 2.78 xGF/60 for the Ottawa Senators. He is poised to break out at some point during the season, it’s just a matter of when, and if he continues playing with Barkov and getting top-line minutes, I wouldn’t expect him to take too long.
Brett Connolly Extends Point Streak to Two
After an awful start to the season, Brett Connolly is finally finding his groove again. Connolly has his second straight point after starting the first six games without a point. The forward recorded an assist on Frank Vatrano’s goal.
Connolly’s game apart from this pretty non-noteworthy, however, the fact that he is producing is good for himself and the Panthers, as they hope he can regain his prior form from 2019-20, in which he was one of the top players on the team in expected goals above replacement, and registered 33 points through 69 games. He sits one goal away from 100 career goals.
Apart from starting Driedger, I believe the Panthers should stick with the rest of their lineup. They’ve been dynamic all season, and I expect them to continue to be, but this was a big eye-opener for the team.
The team has a pretty interesting schedule for the remainder of February. Barring any cancellations, they will take on the Lightning one more time, Carolina Hurricanes twice, Detroit Red Wings twice and the Stars three times. It’ll be an important stretch of games to prove that the Panthers can hang with the crowd in the Central Division.
But all in all, not a great debut for the reverse retro jerseys.
PIT Penguins Writer THW. Twitter & Instagram: puckempire. Formerly a Florida Panthers writer.